Plot: What’s it about?
The 80’s brought us some classic comedies. It started out with some like “Caddyshack” and “Stripes” to “Ghostbusters” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Sure there were others, like the slew of John Hughes movies and the “Vacation” movies, but wedged right in the middle of all these was one of the funnier ones…Back to School. Rodney Dangerfield plays billionaire, Thornton Melon. The son of an Italian immigrant who was never too bright in school, but made his fortune through hard work alone. Thronton never went to college and he turned his family’s “Meloni’s clothing store” into Thronton Melon’s “Tall and Fat” stores, that (you guessed it) specialized in clothes for those who were a bit on the heavy side or a bit taller than the rest of us. Along the way, Thornton has married poorly, but has a son who he loves and a limo driver that’s more like his best friend rather than an employee. The story starts as Thornton gets a call from his son, Jason (Keith Gordon) who is in between classes at Grand Lakes University. It turns out that he has been lying to his father, telling him that he has made the swim team when he is actually the towel boy and pledging a fraternity, when the truth is that they won’t take him. So Thornton packs his bags and decides that he’ll go to college with his son, that way he can help out his son with his problems and get in a little father son time as well.
As you can imagine, Rodney Dangerfield in college is about as out of place as you can get. Dangerfield has surrounded himself with cast members that are his friends, and among the most memorable of scenes is the one between the late Sam Kinison and Dangerfield (SAY IT! SAY IT!!!!). It isn’t long before Thornton is tired of school, he has high piced employees doing his work for him and his son and is more interested in partying than doing any actual work. Thornton is also falling for his Enlish Lit. teacher, but she would rather see him learn as well. It also doesn’t help that she’s dating stuffy Professor Barbay (Paxton Whithead). It’s crunch time! Thornton has a falling out with his son, decides to hit the books and has been accused of cheating on one of his essays (which makes a funny cameo by author Kurt Vonnegut). In the meantime, he has convinced his son to go out for the diving team and as it turns out he’s not that bad. And what would the movie be without Robert Downey Jr. as Jason’s punk, loser friend who has even less friends than Jason. All in all, Back to School is one of those ‘classic’ films that you just have to see. I’ve seen it a dozen times and will watch it a dozen more, it’s just one of those types of movies. Rodney Dangerfield has three great movies out there, “Easy Money”, “Caddyshack” and this one. If you’re under 35 years old, chances are that you have already seen this movie and if you haven’t, do so and chances are that you can identify with it. See it for nothing else that to see Rodney sing “Twist and Shout” at a bar!
Video: How does it look?
Unfortunately MGM did not give this a very good transfer to Back to School. There is some major artifacting and the film is not 16:9 enhanced. The disc has both a widescreen version, which looks strangely like the full screen version with black bars slapped on top of it. I usually don’t say this, but watch the full-screen version, it’s a clearer picture than you’d get off cable and you might as well use your whole TV for a movie like this.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio is a Dolby Surround mix and it serves it’s purpose. While a new 5.1 mix would be nice, I wasn’t really that disappointed. There are some great parts in this movie that the sound takes control, but we don’t watch a movie like Back to School for the surround effects. Still, it would be nice though…
Supplements: What are the extras?
MGM has included a trailer and has their usual production booklet.