There has always been a place for mindless comedy at the movies. A film’s limits depended on its era, but any last standard of good taste was completely obliterated in 1998 with the release of “There’s Something About Mary.” “American Pie” followed a year later, jump starting a wave of throwaway comedies hoping to capitalize on the success of those two films. “Old School” is the latest for this brand of humor that doesn’t rely on two funny bits in the trailer to get people buying tickets.“Old School” is about three thirtysomething friends rejecting the responsibilities of adulthood. Frank (Will Ferrell) has recently married and finds himself questioning the decision, Beanie (Vince Vaughn) is an electronics entrepreneur slowly realizing how unfulfilled his life is. The two are best friends to Mitch (Luke Wilson) has just moved into a new house near the college campus after the break-up with his cheating girlfriend. Frank and Beanie see their path to freedom and throw a house-warming party to remember.
The payoff is hilarious, with Frank mistakenly thinking that he has rallied a mass of partygoers into streaking with him. The event makes Mitch an instant legend on campus, and garners the attention from the Dean (Jeremy Piven), a former nemesis of the three friends. To keep their now beloved house-which now is on school property- Beanie and Frank talk Mitch into turning the residence into an official Fraternity.
The plot is thin, largely influenced by “Animal House”, “Revenge of the Nerds” and even “Fight Club,” leaving the movie wide open for the Frat’s shenanigans. Will Ferrell brings back good memories from his SNL run, and Vaughn has a good knack for improvisation. It’s unfortunate that Luke Wilson doesn’t have the comedic talents of Vaughn or Ferrell, and with the film’s many celebrity cameos, he pretty much gets overshadowed as the main character.
“Old School” has some inspired humor, like a bad wedding gift exchanged back and forth and a scene paying tribute to “The Graduate.” But the movie lags on some inconsistency, after a funny sequence when the guys round up the Frat pledges, there’s a gag involving cinder blocks purely for the gross-out factor that isn’t funny. Will Ferrell has some great lines trying to leave a friendly message to his wife, but a horrible cameo from Andy Dick best left for DVD extras ruins the scene.The movie has a hidden theme about the conformity of adulthood that may cause an odd kind of bonding between a father seeing the film with his teenage son. Director Todd Phillips has definitely made a better movie than his previous college romp “Road Trip.” With its great writing and toga parties, “Animal House” set the standard in 1978 for tasteless comedy that “Old School” doesn’t surpass, but the movie makes the best effort seen in awhile.