With November at an end, I was at a loss for what flick to induct into the vault before embarking on December and the inevitable string of holiday fare. Being a sucker for a pretty face and for celebrating a birthday, I looked to my celebrity calendar and voila, the answer appeared in the petite, shapely form of hilarious Happy Endings costar Elisha Cuthbert. Cuthbert turns 30 today, but the funny Canadian cutie was just 21 when the world was introduced to her in the Todd Phillips feature, Old School.
After Mitch Martin (Luke Wilson) discovers his girlfriend Heidi (Juliette Lewis) is more adventurous than he realized, he leases a house near Harrison University. His friend, Beanie (Vince Vaughn), sees the house as the perfect party pad to get Mitch back in the game and to be an escape from his own wife and kids. Their recently married buddy, Frank (Will Ferrell), also sees it as a reprieve from his wife Marissa (Perrey Reeves). Mitch, Beanie and Frank make a huge impression on campus with Mitch-A-Palooza, drawing the attention of Dean Pritchard (Jeremy Piven), who rezones the house for university use in order to remove his former college nemeses. Beanie and Frank convince Mitch to create a fraternity, enlisting a rag tag bunch of pledges to keep their dream alive, the parties going, and to stick it to the Dean.
Several people have commented they either don’t care for Old School or have avoided it, mainly because they’re not fans of Will Ferrell. Ferrell and his man-child humor account for a tiny portion of the laughs Old School delivers. Add Vince Vaughn’s fast-talking skills and Luke Wilson’s pragmatic delivery, and the result is one of my all-time favorite comedies.
It isn’t enough that the styles of these three actors provide such a perfect comedic balance, but they’re joined by a stellar supporting cast. Although not all of the cast were well-known at the time, many have risen to become household names. The reliably funny Matt Walsh and Artie Lange have a few brief scenes as Mitch’s coworkers Walsh and Booker. Of all the pledges, Blue (Patrick Cranshaw), Spanish (Rick Gonzalez) and Weensie (Jerod Mixon) are the most memorable and riotous, but it’s neat to see that Simon Helberg, Mr. Wolowitz from Big Bang Theory, was cast in the smaller role of Jerry. Elisha Cuthbert, who’s now best-known as Alex on Happy Endings, repeatedly stirs up trouble as Mitch’s fling, Darcie. A be-mulleted Seann William Scott of American Pie fame, has a hilarious run-in with Frank the Tank. Though I’ve never been a fan of theirs, both Craig Kilborn and Andy Dick lend their style of wacky. Even Snoop Dogg, his posse, and James Carville add to the laughs with their cameos.
Old School also forever changed Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, thanks to the side-splitting performance by The Dan Band. Now I always sing along to that tune, but never with the original lyrics. Speaking of, I can’t hear Kansas’s Dust in the Wind without thinking of my boy Blue. Director Todd Phillips pulls in a variety of talented people, and though most have such small parts, they all complement the plight of the three leads. To be sure, Mitch’s subplot involving his high school heartthrob Nicole (Ellen Pompeo) isn’t richly developed, but it’s given far more thought and plausibility than many a romantic comedy while remaining true to Mitch’s desires.
Old School is unbridled, puerile humor that Phillips has arranged for maximum hilarity. From collecting rushes in a rape van to performing rhythmic gymnastics, every funny moment keeps you laughing until the next outlandish one comes along. Like the fraternity Mitch, Beanie, and Frank create, Old School is more than the sum of its parts.