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Old School Movie Review

originally posted many years ago

The filmmakers must be commended on their effort: I bet it takes a lot of work to squash all the humor that a Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn pairing should inevitably yield. Somehow they did it.
Slob comedy is fine. Low-rent and simplistic humor can be a wonderful thing.

But when you have your sights already set so low and still fail resoundingly, the results can be painful. As recent movie history can clearly attest, both Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn are very funny men. So how is it that their first movie together is so astonishingly laugh-free?

I'd call Old School "low-concept" if only I saw a concept anywhere on display.

The plot (and I use the noun very loosely) celebrates three infantile grown men who start up their own college fraternity.

That's really it. Oh sure there are a few dangling things that seem to resemble 'subplots' but I suspect those were included solely to pad this sketch comedy out to a full-length feature.

Much like a particularly poor episode of 'Saturday Night Live,' the film offers a few mildly amusing moments while skittering from bit to wholly unrelated bit. When Ferrell bares his ass and starts careening down the street, rest assured you're seeing the film's funniest sequence - a sequence that occurs about 14 minutes into the film.

As the central 'good' guy, Luke Wilson is a virtual black hole of comedy; he lacks the bizarre charm of his goofball brother and his every attempt at humor comes across as painful. Vaughn snoozes through his role, opting to revisit his Boorish Lout schtick perfected in Doug Liman's Swingers. His presence here feels like deleted outtakes that have been reinserted to a college comedy.

A mental sidebar has me wondering what director Todd Phillips was thinking when he cast the very funny Jeremy Piven in the role of "stick-up-the-ass-college-dean". Not only is Piven ridiculously wrong for the part, but Phillips mysteriously gives Piven nothing funny to do. There's not even an attempt. Find some faceless Wasp to play this role; and someone find Jeremy Piven a new agent.

If the pointless efforts of people like Andy Dick, Ellen Pompeo and Seann William Scott presented any sort of highlight, I'd be sure to mention it.

And then there's Ferrell; a man I'm convinced would be funny shopping for socks. His generally uproarious combination of 'charming manchild meets wild ape' is nearly always good for a laugh, and (despite the sheer awfulness of the screenplay he was given) Ferrell somehow manages to shine through some of the tedium of Old School. But he flickers out under the weight of this movie's omnipresent stupidity.

Old School looks like it was written in an hour and filmed in a week. There's nothing more infuriating than watching funny people fail so consistently. You could film the cast of this movie in a library for 90 minutes and I guarantee it'd be funnier than what's on display here.

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