Some film ads make promises they can't keep, totally misrepresenting the final product. But the ads for Old School give you a good idea of what you're in for: an old man wrestling with topless coeds in KY Jelly, Will Ferrell in a cougar mascot outfit jumping directly into a hoop of fire, and Vince Vaughn doing an iron cross on rings with a lit cigarette clenched in his lips. Need more?
The good news is there's way more where that came from, and there's even some absurdity tossed in for the non-T&A, thinking crowd. So regardless of which side of the fence you're on, you'll laugh until you're teary. And every ounce of its comedic success can be attributed to its three stars -- Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn -- who through talent and chemistry manage to respectably pull off this otherwise ridiculous, often over-the-top comedy.
Wilson plays Mitch, a 30-year-old real estate broker who comes home early from a business trip to find his girlfriend (Juliette Lewis) throwing a gang bang in his bedroom. He moves out to his own place, which his buddies Beanie (Vaughn) and Frank (Ferrell) commandeer as their new party station close to the local college. But to avoid being kicked off campus by the evil dean (Jeremy Piven), they turn the house into a fraternity, populated by a crew of misfits, which include 90-year-old Blue (Patrick Cranshaw) and 400-pound Weensie (Jerod Mixon).
Of course, this is when hijinks ensue, and the hijinks are hilarious. Just the hazing scenes alone are worth the price of admission. Envision Beanie, Frank, and Mitch, pantyhose on their heads, tearing through the streets of a quiet college town and parking lots of supermarkets in a black A-Team-style van, kidnapping rush pledges. Now that's gold.
But there is also a tender side to these guys. Beanie's actually a caring dad who uses the codeword "earmuffs" when he wants his kids to cover their ears when he curses. Frank is recently married, and trying to be a good newlywed, despite his "Frank the Tank" past. And Mitch is falling for single mom Nicole (Ellen Pompeo) who's dating asshole Mark (Craig Kilborn).
Starting to sound like Animal House meets Dr. Phil? Maybe. But it works, and the reason why takes me back to the casting. Ferrell plays the nice guy/caged lunatic, unleashing his outrageous comic fury at just the right moments. Vaughn delivers perhaps his funniest, most confident performance since Swingers as the cocksure, true-pal Beanie. He absolutely oozes Trent Walker, spitting out ingenious little improvisations at times; and then surprises us with random moments of quirkiness, like a kid's birthday party scene where he patrols the lawn with a cocktail glass and dressed as a clown (Shakes, anyone?). And Wilson plays his puppy-dog persona first seen in Bottle Rocket to the hilt, which touchingly bonds these rough-edged buddies together.
Even if you weren't a fan of Todd Phillips first feature film Road Trip, don't be so sure you won't like Old School. Sure, there are lots of boobs, a blowjob class (watch for who cameos as the instructor), and general beer-guzzling debauchery, but there's also a good amount of wit and complexity in these characters and in the dialogue to keep it interesting. In other words, Old School is exactly as stupid and as clever as it needs to be.
Be sure to check out the unrated Old School DVD, which adds tons of deleted scenes and a funny commentary track to an already quite amusing film -- all with a little extra space to it. A 20-minute vignette with Ferrell's James Lipton impersonation chatting with the stars and director. Recommended.
The juice is loose.