Plot: What’s it about?
Ah, college life. It’s something I experienced for the better part of a decade and though I have no wish to repeat that time of my life, I have to admit that I do tend to miss it. You see, after being in the “real” world for some time, you tend to forget how good college can really be. Staying up all night, parties, girls and the occasional class to go to as well. I still have a dream that it’s my last semester and I show up at the final only to find out that no matter what my score, I won’t be able to pass the class. Anyway, my psychologist and I are making real progress and I think before long, even that dream will be a thing of the past. Only kidding, of course. It’s hard not to be a bit nostalgic, though, when you take in Todd Phillips’ “Old School”. Phillips is perhaps best-known for this movie and “Starsky & Hutch” and even made a documentary back in 1998 entitled “Frat House”. The documentary was a much darker look at fraternity life and though I’m a product of that life, I never experienced what those guys went through. That aside, “Old School” is pure fun and here’s what to expect.
Mitch (Luke Wilson) has just had his girlfriend cheat on him, he’s lonely and depressed and with the help of his two best friends: Frank “The Tank” (Will Ferrell) and Beanie (Vince Vaughn), the three decide to relive their glory days by starting a fraternity. It just so happens that Mitch lives on the outskirts of a local college campus and the trio figure that if they drink Mitch’s troubles away, it’ll make all of them feel better. Frank is newly-married and still not accustomed to his new lifestyle and Beanie owns a chain of electronics stores (the most successful of the three). Naturally if you’re going to have a fraternity, then you’ve got to have…pledges. Yep, this is where the movie really kicks into high gear as we meet the pledge class which consists of a 400 lb. guy to an 80 year-old Navy vet. It wouldn’t be all fun if we didn’t have a villain in Dean Gordon (Jeremy Piven) who’s only out for himself.
Let’s face it, “Old School” is to be taken with a grain of salt and anything serious in the film is entirely coincidental. This is mainly a platform for Ferrell, Wilson and Vaughn (and to a lesser extent, Piven) to showcase how funny they are and how much they really make us laugh. That’s not to say there’s not an element of truth in the movie, I mean how many of us wouldn’t want to do the exact same thing these guys did? While it’s a far cry from being the new “Animal House”, it serves its purpose in making the audience feel amused something that many movies aim for and fall far short of. This was one of Ferrell’s first true comedies after leaving SNL and no doubt helped pave his way to the superstar he is now. If you’re looking for a brainless movie in the vein of “Animal House”, “Van Wilder” or “Revenge of the Nerds” then I have to say that “Old School” fits the bill very nicely.
Video: How does it look?
I had actually forgotten that both “Old School” and “Anchorman” were coming to HD DVD and what a pleasant surprise it was to see two of my recent favorites in 1080p. “Old School’s” 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer isn’t the best out there, but it’s far from being the worst. The movie isn’t even five years old, so the majority of the film has a very vivid, lifelike look to it. I found very few instances of any noise in the transfer and though not perfect, it’s the best the movie has looked since I’ve seen it on disc format (my only previous viewing was on standard DVD). Flesh tones look nice and natural and we lose that edge enhancement that’s so associated with standard DVD’s. Any fan of the movie will love the improved picture quality, though it’s not as pristine as I’d have hoped.
Audio: How does it sound?
A majority of Paramount and Universal’s catalog titles have been re-mastered with a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack and I’m saddened to say that “Old School” wasn’t one of the fortunate ones. We do get a pretty decent Dolby Digital Plus track that sounds adequate and in my opinion, about on par with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track found on the standard DVD. I wasn’t expecting too much as most comedy films aren’t really expected to sound all that great. We get some ambient surround effects that add some mood to a few scenes and dialogue is nice and clean, but that’s about it. There really isn’t a lot more to say about this, it serves its purpose and not much more.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The real treat of this movie is the audio commentary by director Todd Phillips who’s joined by Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson. The foursome have a grand old time looking at their work and offer even a few tidbits of inside information on the movie as well. This is one of those tracks that true fans of the movie will love to listen to. We get a few featurettes in “Old School Orientation” which is the basic “Making of…” featurette. Far more entertaining is “Inside the Actor’s Studio” spoof that has Will Ferrell reprising his role as James Lipton and he interviews, well, himself. There are some outtakes, deleted scenes and the original trailer in HD as well.