Old School (2003)

If there’s one thing that the majority of the staff of Website 9 have in common, it’s that we all love bad movies. And as I’ve stated before, when we say “bad movies” we usually mean movies with low budgets and high expectations, movies that usually fail miserably at the box office due to bad plots, bad acting, bad dialogue, bad special effects, or other insurmountable problems.

What we don’t mean, for the most part, are bad Hollywood blockbusters. Movies that cost millions of dollars to make and still manage to suck. We really, really hate those.

Old School is one of those.

Right off the bat, the trailer is misleading. The trailer makes Old School look like a film about three guys who form a middle-age fraternity to excape the boredom of middle age. Unfortunately, that’s not really what the film is about.
Mitch, Frank, and Beanie (Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn, respectively) are three guys that know each other from … somewhere. High school, neighborhood pals, we don’t know. Mitch, a 30 year old attorney, comes home early from a business trip to find his girlfriend (Juliette Lewis) having an orgy. “Alright!” I thought to myself, this movie might actually be good! But alas, Mitch leaves his girlfriend over the incident and rents himself a new place to live.

This new rent house is located directly on a college campus. Why a 30 something lawyer would want to live there in the first place is beyond me. Newlywed Frank and local electronics store owner Beanie decide to throw a housewarming party for their pal, and invite, oh, 2,000 of their closest college friends. The huge party draws the attention of Dean Pritchard (Jeremy Piven), who of course turns out to be a wormy character who the three guys tormented during their high school days. Pritchard informs the three fellows that their house has been rezoned for fraternal use only.

Now in every movie, there is a special moment — that moment where conflict happens and our hero is inspired to act. If that moment is unbelievable, then the movie is unbelievable as well. In Old School, that moment occurs when Beanie and Frank, Mitch’s two buddies, decide to form a fraternity, so Mitch can stay in his house. The rent house. Of course, you or I or anyone else would just move out and get over it. Let’s put it this way — if you lived in an appartment, and they said they were going to bulldoze it down and turn it into an orphanage, chances are you wouldn’t adopt 50 kids to stay there, especially if you’ve only lived there for two days. You’d leave your boxes packed and move on. But oooooooh no, not Mitch Martin! Plus, the whole movie hinges on the fact that these three guys (two of which are married) would prefer to hang out on a college campus instead of being at home. Hey, I had fun in college too, but I’m almost 30. Those times were great memories, but they’re just that — memories.

Instead of joining reality, Mitch becomes “The Godfather”, a character not unlike Tyler Durden. In fact, Old School quickly becomes Fight Club meets Animal House meets Revenge of the Nerds, only in this incarnation they take the worst parts of each of those films and combines them into a movie that’s a whole lot about nothing.

The big subplot in the film are the guys’ relationships with women. Mitch, now single, runs into an “old high school flame” who has been dating a guy for a couple of years. Frank (again, Ferrell), the wacky one of the bunch, screws up his marraige shortly after it begins, and ends up moving to the frat house. Vaughn’s character Beanie constantly has his kid around. If my 30 year old friends form a frat house, I might stop by on the weekends to party a bit, but I’m not moving in, I’m not bringing my kid, and I’m not having sex with high school girls like Elisha Cuthbert (which they end up doing). Cuthbert is only in the film long enough to wonder why she’s in the film. And sure, she’s hot; it’s just tough for me to fantasize about a chick who hosted 1997’s “Popular Mechanics for Kids” and 1999’s “Are You Afraid in the Dark?” on Nickelodeon. Ok, not that tough, but still, her character is brought into the plot and then never used.

Just when the jokes start flying, one of the pledges dies and Frank meets up with his wife at the funeral only to have her ask for a divorce. A divorce?! At a funeral?! THAT’S COMEDY PEOPLE. Ok, no it’s not. The scene is played totally serious, as are some of the other scenes in the film, that just make this more of a shit roller coaster. The sub-plots take over the movie for what seems like hours at a time. While that was going on, I had plenty of time to wonder about things like, “Why isn’t Frank at home working on his marraige? Why isn’t Beanie at home with his family instead of hanging out on a college campus? And most importantly, why does Mitch put up with these two idiots? Everytime he comes home there’s a party or a gathering or some other event going on at his house that he doesn’t even know about.” Trust me, watch Old School and you’ll have SCADS of time to think about this crap too.

After a series of events unfold that make most SNL skits look plausable, the frat boys are given a series of tests. Pass those tests, they get to remain on campus. Fail them, and they have to return to reality, God forbid. What do you wanna bet the electronics guy uses some electronics to cheat, the moron suddenly becomes smart for a moment of clarity, and they make a fat kid do something demeaning?! Yup, you’ll see it all coming too from a mile away.

The trailer to Old School made this movie movie look like it had potential. I thought it was going to be about three guys bonding. Three guys going through their early 30s together. Three guys and their wacky, wacky adventures in a fraternity. Instead, Old School delivers a mish-mash of jokes, touchy-feely moments, and bizarre logic that just left my head spinning. Todd Phillips, who also directed Road Trip, should have just remade that movie again with these three actors. The thought of these three guys going on adventures and having fun would’ve been much more appealing than this. I saw this movie with two of my friends, and although none of use were ina frat, I’m sure our lives are just as entertaining and exciting as the guys in this film. Bottom line, Old School hands us a plot about a guy who, if he overcomes his adversaries, will win the right to party with kids half his age every day!

It’s my age showing again, I know, but that sounds like a nightmare to me.

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