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Old School By Matt Singer
Old School has more product placement than comedy. I spotted in-movie ads for Pepsi, Mug Root Beer, Mountain Dew, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeyeís Chicken (which would seem contradictory to the KFC plug), Red Lobster, Corona, and no less than 6 (!) Rolling Rock placements. In comparison, there are maybe three quality laughs. Thatís an obscene proportion. There is one scene in which Will Ferrellís character is tuning up his car, and he bends over to look under the hood, exposing the back of his jeans. There is a big dark blue square of typically unexposed denim where the pairís tag was clearly removed. Did Levi or Old Navy not pony up the dough? This is where this sort of stuff annoys me; give some money and everyone has some Rolling Rock in their hands, but if you donít pony up and they remove any label to the point that it pulls you out of the movie.
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These are the thoughts that occupy your head when watching Old School, a lukewarm comedy that is funny, but not nearly funny enough to recommend or really enjoy. With a plot barely held together by the likability of its cast, it does ok for a February comedy, but, honestly, these people are capable of better. Luke, the blander of the Wilson Brothers, plays Mitch, who returns from a business trip to find his girlfriend watching porn and, even worse, about to engage in a big orgy. The only funny line in the film comes in this scene, from a latecomer asking Mitch, ďIím here for the gang bang?Ē
Luke moves out with his dog Orson (wishful thinking on the part of the director there wouldnít you say?) and into a house near Hamilton College. His buddies Beanie (Vince Vaughn) and Frank (Ferrell) throw Mitch a freedom party, and the ambitious Beanie then starts a fraternity in Wilsonís house to keep it out of the hands of the Dean (played by Jeremy Piven, who went from college slacker in PCU to Dean in less than a decade). Frankís drunken ways get him in trouble with his newlywed wife, but Beanieís wife, played in a few seconds of screen time by Leah Remini, doesnít seem upset that she never sees her husband as he galavants around town with 19 year old coeds. Mitchís love interest is former high school crush Nicole, played by Ellen Pompeo, who is such a dead-ringer for Renee Zellwegger that she could fill in for the Chicago star if she is unable to fulfill her duties as an Oscar nominee.
Some of Ferrellís antics - like destroying a childís birthday party while on animal tranquilizer - are actually very funny, but they have little to do with the plot, which never really seem to amount to much of anything. The motley crew frat brothers donít have many opportunities to standout and the dean versus the frat finale is suspenseless and boring. Why have old dudes make a frat if youíre not really going to play up the fact that they are old farts are trying to be cool? There are a dozen ways they could have played this potential for laughs and even a couple that could have led to some social commentary about aging losers. I wish I could say it doesnít have time for smart stuff with all the comedy, but really itís the product placement and weird cameos (Andy Dick and, get this, James Carville) that are crowding all the screen time. The script, by director Todd Phillips and collaborator Scot Armstrong, is too lazy to fully resolve the love triangle between Mitch, Nicole, and her boyfriend, played by Craig Kilborn of all people. When Nicole pops up in the last scene to say she forgives Mitch for being a jerk, we learn that she has, off-screen, broken up with the boyfriend she picked over Mitch. We donít even get to learn why she broke up with him.
For Phillips, who made the underrated and very funny Road Trip, this is a step backward. All the funny elements in Old School are obvious - Will Ferrell running through the streets naked isnít exactly the rocket science of comedy - and the three leads, all very funny in other films, disappoint with their surprising lack of on-screen chemistry. Wilson is all wrong for his role (Check him out in Legally Blonde to see him in his element) and Vaughnís performance made me yearn for the days of Swingers. For a funny college comedy go really old school: go rent National Lampoonís Animal House.