One of the biggest comedy hits of the past decade, Old School brought together three high-profile comedic actors and tossed them together to form the wildly successful film that took grown men and made them regress in age to form their own fraternity. The film raked in the money, nearly quadrupling its production budget in ticket sales in the United States alone and went on to sell a multitude of copies on DVD. Now, Paramount is revisiting the film with the unrated Blu-ray release that will remind fans of the film why they loved it so much.
What’s a guy supposed tod o when he catches the early flight home and finds his girlfriend in bed with a room full of naked strangers? Return to college and start a fraternity! Before you can say “wild and wet wrestling,” Frank “The Tank” (Will Ferrell, Blades of Glory, Anchorman), Mitch (Luke Wilson, Legally Blonde) and Beanie (Vince Vaughn, Swingers) have their own frat raging with out-of-control antics. But when things get too wild, the dean sets out to shut them down. The laughs are top of the class (even if the guys aren’t!) in the hit comedy from director Todd Phillips (Road Trip).
I didn’t realize when I originally saw this film years ago, but this really is just like Animal House with grownups and a bit more adult responsibility thrown in. Granted I didn’t realize this because I’d never seen Animal House, so I never drew the comparison but watching this film really clued me in on that aspect. Of course that doesn’t make the film any less funny, it just makes it less original in my eyes. Then again, a bunch of older men acting like frat boys isn’t exactly original to begin with, but I digress.
I was admittedly a bit let down when I saw this film originally, simply because it was so hyped up and loved by everyone I knew who had seen it. When the time came that I actually watched it myself, I really wasn’t quite as impressed with it. Maybe you have to be the same age as the men in the film to really appreciate the age digression, but while I was certainly having a great time watching it, it wasn’t the comedic gold I was expecting. Again, not to say it wasn’t a hilarious film, it just kind of left you wanting more, as it didn’t always make you laugh the way you felt it could have if things were worked out a little more clearly.
Another issue I had with the film is it rarely seemed to progress its story, and simply moved from scene to see. All told the hour and a half film really only had about twenty minutes of real plot development, with the rest hanging on the crazy antics of the cast. This really just made it seem even more like Animal House, but, again…it’s not really a flaw of the film, so much as of my expectations from it. I apparently expected something akin to what Judd Apatow has given us and instead was given something else a little more watered down.
But, as much as I may rail on this film, it is genuinely a hilarious piece of comedy and one that still stands up over time. I wasn’t any more impressed with the film the second time around and when it comes down to it it’s just a bunch of naked girls and beer jokes, but it is also quite hilarious in a different way when it comes to the supporting cast of the film. While they were bit parts or background characters, the film had a fair share of supporting cast that has gone onto bigger things now. That alone is another reason to check this one out, especially if you’ve kept up with recent television and film.
Overall Old School, in either rated or unrated form (though only the Unrated version made it to Blu-ray…not that I’m sure anyone will object), is worth checking out and comes Recommended. Ferrell’s easily the silliest of the characters, with Wilson and Vaughn’s characters being a bit more mature in nature, so if you aren’t necessarily a fan of Ferrell’s yelling and in-your-face comedic style, then you still have two others to fall back on.
Old School – Unrated arrives on Blu-ray with a standard Elite Blu-ray case and inserts noting firmware updates as well as the $10 rebate for upgrading to this Blu-ray release over the standard DVD edition(s). Menus are overly simple, with no menu animation or music to speak of. All extras are in standard definition and are ported over exactly as they were from the original DVD release.
Video for this film arrives in an AVC encoded 1080p video transfer that mimics the same quality as the other batch of Paramount Blu-ray comedy releases for December 16th (including Hot Rod, Tommy Boy and Heartbreak Kid): good, but not great. The detail is high in some cases, but a lot of the time the video just appears overly soft to me. Perhaps I’m being overly critical, but the transfer really isn’t flat-out amazing and it just doesn’t scream perfection to me. Then again, do you really want to count the hairs on Will Ferrell’s back as he streaks? The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is a bit more satisfying, with crystal clear dialogue, plenty of surround usage and the films varied and fantastic mix of music comes through loud and clear. Also included are French and Spanish DD5.1 mixes, as well as English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Moving onto the extras, we get, as mentioned above, the same array as the previous DVD release. First up is the Feature Commentary with director Todd Phillips, Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, which is quite an entertaining track and one I’m glad they were able to get the trio of actors for. From the Cutting Room Floor (13:19) shows off an array of deleted scenes, while Old School Orientation (13:03) is an EPK style making-of piece that is incredibly and relentlessly fluffy in nature.
One great extra is the Inside the Actors Studio Spoof (13:39), which casts Ferrell as James Lipton and the whole piece is absolutely fantastic. Also included is a short Outtakes and Bloopers (5:04) reel, as well as a selection of TV Spots (1:37). The Theatrical Trailer (2:29, 1080p) is included in MPEG-2 encoded video and a quick Easter Egg (2:06) of Snoop Dogg singing is included as well (you can access it by highlighting “Old School Orientation” and pressing right on the remote, upon which a bikini will appear to the left.
Overall the extras are rather light, but it’s a fair mixture. The commentary is definitely worth a listen and it made me appreciate the film a tad bit more, if only to hear the work that went into making it (and the stories that resulted). It’s a solid release with mediocre video, so there isn’t much of a reason to upgrade if you already have the DVD edition. The gains are slim, so unless you want to bolster your Blu-ray collection you can safely pass this one up. But the $10 rebate may be worth it to some, so the final price for this release will drop somewhere in the low teens when all is said and done. Recommended for those who don’t already own it, but previous owners should just stick with what they have currently.
Old School – Unrated and Out of Control arrives on Blu-ray on December 16th.