Criticism

Old School

“If grown men living out their every adolescent fantasy constitutes a happy ending, then Old School is an absolute fairy tale.”

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School Dazed

In Old School, laughs come at the expense of taste

Perhaps the reason Saturday Night Live alum Will Ferrell has found more success in Hollywood than most of his fellow SNL graduates is that he doesn’t go after starring roles, and, more importantly, there’s absolutely nothing he won’t do for a laugh. No gag is too cheap for the spastic comedian, who clearly understands – and, impressively, isn’t bothered by the fact – that the mere sight of his naked body can generate more repulsed guffaws than American Pie 1 and 2 combined.

Consequently, in Old School, viewers are treated to plenty of Ferrell au natural, including lingering close-ups of his “larger-than-life ass,” frequent shots of his bountiful love handles, and even a brief glimpse or two of his, um, Little Will. True to form, as many times as his flabby, pasty body is served up, the joke somehow never stops being funny. He may not be the star of the film, but he certainly steals the show.

As if the sight of Ferrell in his birthday suit weren’t enough to draw viewers in, director Todd Phillips and screenwriter Scot Armstrong, the duo behind the rowdy Road Trip, have filled their latest campus comedy with enough infantile antics to tickle even the most hard-nosed moviegoers. Just try not to laugh at the nonstop barrage of idiotic exploits, which involve KY Jelly, blow-up sex dolls, tranquilizer darts and ever so much more. Add to this the always-amusing talents of Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson and Andy Dick (all at the top of their game), and there’s simply no resisting the gut-level appeal of this raucous, ridiculous romp.

The paper-thin plot serves only to set the juvenile hijinks in motion. Upon discovering his girlfriend’s a cheating nymphomaniac, Mitch (Wilson) moves into a house near his old college campus. Before he can even unpack, his best buds Beanie (Vaughn) and Frank (Ferrell) commandeer the place and turn it into Party Central. Threatened with eviction by the university, the guys organize a fraternity of geeks and losers in order to take advantage of a legal loophole that allows them to stay if they provide student housing.

This Revenge of the Nerds meets Animal House premise sets the stage for a string of lowbrow escapades designed solely to allow the performers to strut their comedic stuff. Wilson employs his perpetually perplexed persona to great effect as he beds his boss’s high-school-age daughter. Vaughn cranks up his trademark smarmy cynicism to maniacal proportions. Dick flits about in a cropped T-shirt and a Robin Hood wig as the ultra-femme instructor of “The Art of the Blowjob.” And Ferrell, well, he does everything else: performs a gymnastics floor routine, sings “Dust in the Wind” at a funeral, tongue kisses Sean William Scott, you name it.

The outrageous – and unmistakably homoerotic – shenanigans culminate in a hilarious showdown between the happily regressed men and the university’s spiteful dean (Jeremy Piven). I don’t want to spoil the outcome, but let me say this: if grown men living out their every adolescent fantasy constitutes a happy ending, then Old School is an absolute fairy tale.

(Appeared in Gay City News)

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