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Old School: Unrated Edition

Times grow strange when a man reaches his thirties. Middle-age is still far in the distance, but it becomes a tangible reality. The sense of youth still lingers, although a young man's exuberances become increasingly less appropriate. Various grown-up responsibilities — to marriage, career, and family — chip away at the liberties the teenager within still craves. And for every guy out there who wonders if he's on the downslope to a slow death in middle-class suburbia, there's Old School (2003), another entry in the recent spate of raunchy Hollywood comedies that does for aging frat-boys what American Pie did for oversexed high-schoolers. Luke Wilson stars as Mitch, a real estate attorney who enjoys a quiet life with his live-in girlfriend Heidi (Juliette Lewis) — until, that is, he comes home early from a business trip and discovers Heidi is really into swinging. Dejected and demoralized, Mitch thus finds a home to rent near the city's college campus. In fact, it's practically on campus, which gets the attention of pal Beanie (Vince Vaughn), a wealthy electronics retailer who wants to put some excitement back into his life rather than while away all of his free time with his wife and two kids. It isn't long before Beanie throws a major bash ("Mitch-a-Palooza") that has half the student body hip-hoppin' out. But Mitch and Beanie's buddy Frank (Will Ferrell) has a bit too much to drink, and before he knows it he's on the outs with his wife and ready to crash at Mitch's digs. All would be copacetic, were it not for the fact that Dean Pritchard (Jeremy Piven) wants the party-pad shut down, and thus has the neighborhood rezoned. The only way the house will keep rockin' is if our boys turn it into a fraternity and slip it through the university's regulations.

*          *          *

A $75 million hit for DreamWorks and director/co-writer Todd Phillips, Old School offers a few surprises for viewers, although none of them are related to the movie's genre — those with limited tolerance for foul language and nudity (as well as jokes about oral sex and penile injury) should steer clear. But if that's exactly the sort of beer-drinking comedy you're looking for on Saturday night, this one fits the bill. There's plenty of crassness and physical humor, and yet Old School's appeal ironically stems from its three endearing lads. Rather than rehashing the Porky's crowd, we're given plenty of reason to sympathize with these men in their post-20s malaise. While Beanie has the greatest investment in the house (and begged Frank not to get married), in the end he's just a party animal and remains faithful to his wife. Mitch's aw-shucks demeanor gives him plenty of opportunities to score, but he's entirely too smitten with former high school crush Nicole (Ellen Pompeo) to bother. Both actors offer typically good performances with the material, but the real revelation in Old School is SNL alum Will Ferrell. A popular character actor on TV who seemed to have limited opportunities on the big screen, Ferrell gets his first shot here to star in a big-time movie, and he owns it. Rather than riffing on a threadbare, not-ready-for-primetime motif, as "Frank the Tank" he's immediately likable as a sweet, somewhat simple fellow whose very real, very sincere earnestness often explodes in unbridled rage or rank exhibitionism. And give the man credit — in addition to taking more than his share of potentially injurious pratfalls, the guy was willing to run around on camera naked as a jaybird, and it's a hoot.

DreamWorks has released Old School in three separate DVD editions — unrated widescreen (anamorphic 1.85:1), R-rated widescreen, and R-rated full-frame. All feature audio in DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1 and an array of subtitles. Supplements include a lively commentary with stars Wilson, Ferrell, and Vaughn, joined by director Phillips. Also on board are eight deleted/alternate scenes, the featurette "Old School Orientation" (13 min.), a spoof of "Inside the Actors Studio" (21 min.), outtakes and bloopers (5 min.), trailers and TV spots, stills, and notes on the cast, crew, and production. Keep-case.
—JJB



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