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Old School (2003)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/16/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/15/2008

While you can usually find a wide array of movies aimed at various age groups playing in theaters at any given time, Hollywood has a more narrow focus. They like to aim their films at the coveted 18-25 age group, as these individuals are seen to have a considerable amount of disposable income. Well, I'm no longer in that age group, and thus, I rarely feel that a movie is aimed at me. However, Old School is the film that dared to buck that trend. While this movie can be enjoyed by most any adult, it was clearly made just for 30-something guys...and that makes it a very special movie.

Old School opens with introducing us to Mitch Martin (Luke Wilson), a middle-rung office worker who comes home from a business trip to find that his live-in girlfriend (Juliette Lewis) has been cheating on him. We then meet Mitch's best friends, Frank Ricard (Will Ferrell), who has just gotten married, and Beanie Campbell (Vince Vaughn), an abrasive stereo store owner. Mitch is forced to find a new place to live, and takes a house near the local college campus. In an attempt to cheer up Mitch, Beanie organizes a huge party ("Mitchapalooza"), which is attended by many college students. The trio have a great time at the party, and Beanie decides that they should make this a regular occurrence. Beanie then takes it one step further by turning the house into a fraternity, complete with members from a diverse age range. Everything is great at first, until Dean Pritchard (Jeremy Piven) attempts to have the fraternity closed. While the guys scramble to save their beloved group, Mitch suddenly finds himself involved with Nicole (Ellen Pompeo), a high school flame who has moved back to town.

Old School is an interesting hybrid film. It takes the elements of a raucous college comedy and mixes them with a look at how men can become complacent and bored in their mid-30s. It's like Animal House meets American Beauty and Office Space. Mitch is just a simple guy who would like a nice, honest relationship and some time to spend with his friends. Frank rushed into marriage and suddenly he and his wife (Perry Reeves) find that they have little in common and don't really understand one another. Beanie is married and has children, but he's restless and feel tied down. These men should be happy, but they aren't. The world has told them to fit into these neat little roles, but they aren't comfortable there. The fraternity represents a chance to be free and live the way in which they want. And yet, chaos ensues.

That reading may reflect what is going on in Old School, but that certainly isn't what the film is about. No, this movie simply wants to have fun and have fun it does. The overall plot of the film is pretty simple and straightforward -- guys make fraternity, fraternity is challenged, guys must save fraternity -- so the movie becomes a series of one hilarious vignette after another. While Wilson sticks to his role as straight-man, Vaughn and Ferrell are allowed to cut loose. Frank degenerates into a man-child as his marriage with Marissa disintegrates. The fast-talking Beanie becomes he focus of many scenes, as Vaughn uses his rapid-fire delivery to put the other characters on the defensive and suddenly everything is their fault. And then we have the pledges; who can forget the very old Blue (Patrick Cranshaw) or the very heavy Weensie (Jerod Mixon). Many of these characters have their own issues, making them just as unhappy as the three main characters.

Is Old School a modern-day classic? That's an excellent question. I can say with certainty that it's one of the funniest comedies of the new millennium and also one of the most quoted. I've heard "You're my boy, Blue" more times than I can remember and I'm sure that many a party fouler has been labeled "Frank the Tank". While there is a semi-serious message buried in Old School, the main focus should be on the irreverent and often sly humor here. Of course, there's nothing new and clever about Will Ferrell running through a party naked, but great comedy isn't always pretty.

Old School asks for earmuffs on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image here looks pretty good, as the picture is sharp and clear, showing only slight grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, from the greens to the blues, and they never run together. The detail is OK, but the image is somewhat flat and doesn't give us that crispness which Blu-ray has become known for. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo is good and we get some nice effects and separation during crowd scenes. The in-film music sounds good as well. Surround sound is present, but it's very low. The noise at Mitchapalooza should sound better, but we only get faint sounds from the rear. The same goes for the subwoofer effects.

The Old School Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director/co-writer Todd Phillips, and stars Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn. This is a fairly good commentary, as Phillips attempts to give us some information about the making of the film. And while it's not surprising that Ferrell and Vaughn want to kid around, at times they get too far off course and we are simply listening to a couple of guys being jerks. "From the Cutting Room Floor" contains eight extended and deleted scenes which run about 13 minutes. There are a few funny moments here. "Old School Orientation" (13 minutes) is a fairly basic making of which offers clips from the film and some behind-the-scenes footage and comments from the cast and filmmakers. The piece sticks to the formula of introducing us to the characters and story. "Inside the Actor's Studio Spoof" (14 minutes) where Ferrell plays James Lipton, who interviews Ferrell (?!), Vaughn, Wilson, and Phillips. It's great to see Ferrell doing this character again. The Disc contains a 5-minute reel of OUTTAKES & BLOOPERS. The extras are rounded out by the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film, plus three TV SPOTS.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long