Let’s start this with a cliché: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
However, it doesn’t always equal entertainment if the imitation is too close. Old School tries to be different, but you can’t ignore the constant feeling that you’ve tread this territory before in a little movie called Animal House. It’s not surprising to see Animal House’s director Ivan Reitman listed in the credits as a producer either. Old School has flashes of brilliance, though nothing terribly new.
Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn take their trademark characters and place them into the bodies of three guys yearning for their college frat days. Vaughn is the fast talking swindler, Ferrell is the idiotic one-liner machine, and Wilson is the kind-hearted guy trying to make the best out of everything.
In other words, you have a new Animal House cast that goes like this: Ferrell playing Bluto, Vaughn playing Boon, and Wilson a kinda/sorta Dorfman character. The only difference here is that these characters are not really in college, and their frat is comprised of a variety of random people. The parties are crazy, alcohol is prevalent, nudity is constant, and one character even inadvertently sleeps with a high school girl, a direct lift from the classic 1978 comedy.
Other problems include Jeremy Piven going completely over the top as the dean of the school looking for any way to kick the frat off campus, one step shy of declaring them on “double secret probation,” about the only thing not lifted here from somewhere else. The other frat members hardly have any time to develop, and most are never even given a line of dialogue to work with, filling in background space.
None of this is saying Old School isn’t funny. It has some memorable scenes, including the initiation, which is priceless stuff. Vaughn spouts off some great lines, and Ferrell has zero inhibitions when it comes to his roles. If you’ve ever had the urge to see a hairy guy's ass jiggling on screen as he streaks down a city street, Ferrell is the guy you call on.
Also, if you’ve never seen Animal House, well, see Animal House. Old School is fine for what it is if you know going in you’re not about to see anything remotely original. You’ll laugh, and its main characters have enough to carry the thin story, but there’s not enough material worthy of a new movie.
Some edge enhancement problems are noticeable on this HD transfer, along with light compression artifacts. Otherwise, this crisp presentation shines with bold detail, especially during close ups. Colors are bright, and black levels are fine.
Frat parties light up this Dolby Digital Plus effort. Bass is delivered in powerful form when music kicks in, and the general rowdiness of the crowd fills the sound field. Scenes such a van speeding through the city showcase some excellent positional movement.
Extras begin with eight deleted scenes totaling 13 minutes, and provide little of value. Old School Orientation is a blatantly promotional behind-the-scenes featurette running 13 minutes. Inside the Actor’s Studio Spoof is exactly what it says it is, with Will Ferrell playing the host in heavy make up. A lively commentary with Ferrell, Vaughn, Wilson, and director Todd Phillips is worth a listen. Five minutes of funny outtakes and a trailer mark the end of this brief feature set.
As with so many DVDs these days, Old School is plastered with “Unrated” on the case. The difference between this and the R-rated theater cut? A few extra seconds of nudity.