Review: Old School

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )

Old School has the distinct privilege of being the first R rated movie that I have attended, legally purchasing a ticket for it, and unaccompanied by my parents. Ahh, the joys of being 17. Its unfortunate however, that Old School is such a disappointment. After receiving such a strong recommendation from all my peers, I was really expecting to laugh, and what I got was a few chuckles and a lot of finger twiddling. Having already made 70 million on a 24 million budget, Old School is financially an unmitigated success. In terms of quality, Old School lacks the laughs necessary to even qualify as a “hilarious stupid movie” let alone a guilty pleasure.

Since the Florida election scandals of the 2000 election, Will Farrell has been one of Saturday Night Live’s most popular cast members, due to his almost flawless impression of President George W. Bush. He recently left Saturday Night Live to start a movie career which already included Zoolander and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and numerous cameos in such movies as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Farrell is the only one who will benefit from Old School (besides DreamWorks) as his purpose for taking the role is to gain exposure, and with a 70 million and still climbing box office tally, Farrell will accomplish just that. For everyone else, Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn, this is an embarrassment to have on their resume as it simply isn’t funny.

Mitch Martin a middling lawyer who is kind of a loser. Nothing is really special about the guy. When he arrives home from a conference, he discovers his girlfriend Heidi in the process of a gang bang. On the rebound, Mitch moves out of the house that he and Heidi shared, and into a house that is pretty much right on the campus of a major university. Recently married friend Frank and bored husband Beanie find themselves also disenchanted with the real world. Then they have an epiphany, why not turn Mitch’s house into a fraternity? They begin recruiting men of all ages and stages in their life to join this fraternity which “has nothing to do with academics or giving back to the community.” Before their fraternity can really get going though, Dean Gordon Pritchard is determined to shut them down, at all costs. While all this is going on, Mitch begins falling for a high school chum Nicole.

For all the laughter that I was assured I would get, I was pretty disappointed. Yet more interestingly, I seems as though the audience was pretty disappointed as well. There was laughter, but not as much as I would have expected. Several moments of the film are defiantly laugh out loud funny, one of them being the abduction of the pledges and the “floor exercise.” But combined, these two events last a total of probably four minutes. I know I didn’t pay $6.50 to receive for minutes of laughter. The films lack of comedy is the least of its worries though. The numerous dramatic scenes not only ware down on the vibe the movie was trying to create, but it began to irritate me and dragged on for entirely too long. Intertwining with these dramatic scenes are the romantic scenes between Mitch and Nicole, which are tepid at best. I say this because I only an hour after seeing the movie, I couldn’t remember the name Nicole as the girl that Mitch was infatuated with. Never a good sign of meaning fill dialogue or script.

Something must be said about the horrible camera work that garners the screen in Old School. Cinematographer Mark Irwin, who is actually quite experienced (There’s Something About Mary; Scream; Dumb and Dumber; American Pie 2) utilizes so many quick cuts that its enough to give a person a headache. The numerous close ups would also indicate a lack of experience. The dizzying array of miscalculated angles is certainly a draw back as well.

In a comedy that aims for our funny bone instead of our brain, the most important thing is comedic timing and ability, rather than true acting chops. Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn, who essentially play straight men to Will Farrell’s comedy are just fine in their delivery and timing. For a total comedy, I was pretty surprised to see that there was basically only one “funny guy” in the whole film, that of Frank, Will Farrell’s character. Carrying the entire burden of the comedic value of the film is no easy task, but Farrell does the best he could. However, when he stumbles, there is no one around to pick up the slack, and so the audience notices and the film suffers.

There are three criterion for being a recommended film here at The Teen Film Review. Number one, a movie must achieve what it set out to do, (I.E. if its a comedy, generating a laugh, if its a tear jerker, jerking al). Number two, the movie must be worth the price of a movie ticket. Finally, number three, spawn genuine compassion or create a link between audience member and character(s). Old School fails all three required steps to success. If you really want to kick it old school, run to your local video store, and rent Manhattan Murder Mystery, Election, or American Pie, or another comedy that succeeds in being a comedy. In life there is nothing sadder than an adult trying to recapture a portion of their youth. In the film industry, there is nothing sadder than a comedy that just isn’t funny.

© 2003 Jacob Sproul

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