Some people believe that college is the greatest time of your life. Todd Phillips is obviously a strong advocate of this theory, as his latest movie is his third about college life. Following in the footsteps of “Road Trip,” “Old School” attempts to highlight the reasons behind this common sentiment. However, while the combined comedic talent of Will Ferrell (“Zoolander”) and Vince Vaughn (“Domestic Disturbance”) may save Luke Wilson’s (“The Royal Tenenbaums”) life from hitting rock bottom, it cannot do the same for the movie.

Todd Weiser
Courtesy of DreamWorks
I DRIVE A DODGE STRATUS!

One major drawback is that some of the storylines, especially the backstories behind the characters’ motivations, aren’t payed enough attention, such as Mitch Martin’s (Wilson) deteriorating relationship. Within the first few minutes of the movie he walks into the bedroom in his home to find his girlfriend watching hardcore porn. While this turns him on initially, his mood quickly changes when a strange man and woman walk out of his bathroom wearing only underwear and blindfolds. After a quick conversation, Mitch is moving out of the house, and so ends all development of his broken relationship.

Next to fall, Frank (Ferrell) is about to get married despite the desperate pleas of Beanie (Vaughn). While Frank is anxious for married life, his marriage fails all too soon and is dropped from the plot just as quickly. Beanie is “happily” married with children, but even this relationship, the only one not to fall completely apart, does not receive nearly enough screen time to be explained properly. Expanding these important subplots would have both given the main triumvarite more definition and also made the movie longer, as it clocks in at a very short 91 minutes.

The combination of these three friends, however, is a very effective one. Mitch’s innocence, Frank’s confused, party-loving attitude and Beanie’s experience unite to form a unique trio. They must work together to save Mitch’s house, which is in danger of being repossessed because it is on a college campus, but doesn’t have any affiliation to the university.

Deciding to start a fraternity, allowing Mitch to keep the house, and rebuild his confidence and reputation, they select 14 of the most random people they can find, ranging from local college students to 93-year-old Blue, a man trying to live life to its fullest even in its twilight. Thus, a club is formed that everyone wants to be a part of; everyone, that is, except the narrow-minded dean (Jeremy Piven, “PCU”).

It is rather unsettling to see Piven in such a reversal of roles from his former tribute to the college party lifestyle, and while this sometimes works to a movie’s advantage, this is not the case for “Old School.” Though he does a fine job of depicting the sneaky, slimy dean, his characters should remain on the other side of the conflict.

Piven is just one of a few talents wasted during the movie. Snoop Dogg’s cameo concert at the grand opening of Mitch’s house was cut short by Ferrell’s announcement that he is going streaking through campus (a sight not soon to be forgotten by anyone who sees the movie), and this short appearance is hardly worthy of a legend like Snoop. Craig Kilborn plays the boyfriend of Mitch’s newest love interest, Renee-Zellweger-look-alike Ellen Pompeo. While his dry humor does create a few chuckles, the lack of screen time is, again, not enough for the hilarious Kilborn.

Ferrell’s antics evoke some side-splitting laughter throughout the movie, but not enough to make it credible as a good piece of comedy, especially compared to the masterful works of old from which it rips more than its fare share of ideas. If “Road Trip” or “Animal House” type laughs are what you are in the mood for, or if you feel like watching Stifler bump up his male make-out count to three, then “Old School” is the movie for you. But if you are looking for a movie that outshines other comedy dribble, look elsewhere.

2 1/2 Stars

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