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ISSUE 116 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/28/2003

Critic’s Corner: Laughable fraternity scene on the college campus

By Molly Bayrd
Executive Editor

Friday, February 28, 2003

Not since 1972 has the word “Godfather” been used so appropriately in a film.

“"Old School,”" the newest edition to director Todd Phillips’ portfolio, has little to do with the Italian mafia, however. Instead, this sidesplitting comedy focuses upon the ridiculous exploits of a rag-tag college fraternity formed by three thirty-something pals.

As Mitch, the likeable founder of Lambda Epsilon Omega (and aptly dubbed “the Godfather” by his frat buddies), Luke Wilson slips easily into his usual role as the amiable guy-next-door. This is a fool-proof formula for Wilson, whose good looks and humble demeanor never fail to win over an audience.

The only difference here, however, is that Wilson finally has free reign to flaunt the comedic genius that his previous films (“"The Royal Tenenbaums"” and “"Rushmore”") have only partially revealed. With famed funnyman Will Ferrell and the talented Vince Vaughn (in his most hilarious role since 1996's “"Swingers”") as the frat’'s other founding fathers, “"Old School”" delivers more laughs than any college-related movie since 1978’'s “"Animal House.”"

After the school’'s bitter dean tries to close Mitch’'s famed frat down, the eclectic Lambda Epsilon Omega boys (and I use the term loosely, since one of the pledges, "Blue,” is an octogenarian") must prove their worth to the Board of Regents in a rigorous academic and physical exam. Not surprisingly, the resourceful frat boys successfully navigate around the obstacles thrown at them.

Actor Jeremy Piven is wasted in an unusually sour and unlikable role as the school dean, but laugh-inducing cameos by former “Daily Show” host Craig Kilborn and a mullet-wearing Seann William Scott (best remembered for his role as “Stifler” in the “"American Pie”" movies) make up for this slight blemish in the film’s casting.

Though “Old School’'s” general tenor is expectedly sophomoric and underdeveloped, audiences will not be disappointed. One scene in particular, in which Ferrell (known in DSW as “Frank the Tank”) mistakenly shoots a tranquilizer dart into his own neck, left most viewers (myself included) in laughter-induced tears.

Other highlights occur during the frat’s academic and physical exam, including a scene in which the entire frat performs a choreographed routine to “"Everybody Dance Now"” and Vaughn -- the picture of cool -- dangles a cigarette from his mouth as he performs an Iron Cross on the still rings in the physical fitness portion of the exam.

After a spate of much more serious releases such as the Holocaust picture “"The Pianist"” and recent drama "The Hours," this light-hearted comic romp offers a welcome change of pace. It will send audiences from the theater with thoughts of Otter, Boone and (Senator) John Blutarsky dancing in their heads.

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