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A trio of thirty-something buddies tries to recapture the outrageous, irrepressible fun of their college years by starting their own off-campus frat house. Mitch, Frank and Beanie have all reached a crossroads in their lives. They can choose to be responsible adults, with wives, families and steady jobs--or they can postpone adulthood in favor of the reckless abandon of frat house living with all the fun and none of the education. No contest.
For more about Old School and the Old School Blu-ray release, see Old School Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 16, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Jeremy Piven, Ellen Pompeo, Juliette Lewis
Director: Todd Phillips
» See full cast & crew
Old School Blu-ray Review
'Old School' is a new school wannabe comedy classic.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 16, 2008
We're going streaking!
Academia has served as the foundation of several headlining comedy films over the years. Consistently ranked among the "best of the best" the genre has to offer are school-centric films like National Lampoon's Animal House, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Real Genius, and Back to School. Old School is a film that desperately wants to be mentioned in the same breath as these classics, but falls short at most every turn. This Will Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction)/Luke Wilson (Bottle Rocket)/Vince Vaughn (Dodgeball) outing is not necessarily a bad film; it's an average comedy that has its moments, but it lacks a definitive groundwork, featuring a plot that meanders much of the time and an avalanche of random characters played by an assortment of name actors. The film doesn't gel until the final act, which is almost good enough to forget the doldrums of the first two.
Mitch Martin (Wilson) decides to skip the remainder of a dull out-of-town business conference and return home early. Surprise, surprise, he discovers his girlfriend has been unfaithful, and Mitch finds himself down on his luck and in search of new digs. He settles into a quaint little house on the periphery of a college campus and at the insistence of his friends, the newlywed Frank Ricard (Farrell) and the married but anti-marriage electronics superstore owner Beanie Campbell (Vaughn), the house becomes host of the hottest college party of the year. When the Dean of the college, Gordon Pritchard (Jeremy Piven, The Kingdom), a victim of abuse at the hands of the gang earlier in life, shuts down the house, the trio does the only thing they can to keep it afloat: they turn it into a makeshift fraternity, recruiting people of all shapes, colors, and ages, in hopes of meeting the school's rigid requirements and keeping their newfound party-hard lifestyle and freedom alive, all the while tackling numerous issues in their personal lives.
Old School is a film that seems to work in spurts, offering a laugh here, an eyeball-rolling scene there, a little twist in one frame, a predictable cliché in another, all playing with little cohesion or focus until the plot thickens and the fraternity brothers inevitably have to fight for their right to party, to blatantly borrow a phrase from the Beastie Boys. This final act featuring the fraternity members forced to participate in school events, proving their worth as members of the campus, brings to the film a sense of focus and purpose that was lacking earlier. The movie handles each of these scenes impressively. The gymnastics segment in particular stands out. Set to the theme music from Chariots of Fire (as clichéd as that may be), the combination of inane, over-the-top imagery set to the rather serious tone the situation warrants and the music brings to the scene makes it one of those Comedy film moments where it is almost impossible to contain the laughter.
Like the laughs, the characters of Old School are mostly hit-or-miss. The film is replete with secondary and tertiary characters, many of whom are played by a who's-who list half a credit list long, that keep popping up but add little to the overall plot and mood of the film. The primaries, however, are generally better-than-adequate in their roles. Will Ferrell brings a none-too-serious, over-the-top (and sometimes too scantily clad) performance, almost acting as a comic relief of sorts to the Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson characters, who play somewhat more serious yet nevertheless funny characters themselves. The star of the show is Jeremy Piven as the college's dean. A former victim of bully abuse at the hands of the trio, he has risen in the ranks of academia to take the top seat at the college. His character is evil in a mad scientist sort of way, hoping to gain an edge and exact his own brand of revenge through whatever serious but never sadistic means may be at his disposal. Piven plays the dichotomy of evil mastermind and nerdy adult who never grew out of his adolescent ways well, carrying himself with a slightly nervous but in-charge attitude. He is someone who does not seem to necessarily relish confrontation but who also isn't afraid to get his hands dirty in the affairs of others, particularly if the results are to his benefit. As in many other school-centric comedies (notably Animal House and Real Genius, for example), it is the authority figure, the dean or the professor, that make the best characters, and Piven does not disappoint in this film.
Old School Blu-ray, Video Quality
Old School enrolls on Blu-ray with a 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer of above-average quality. Much like the movie, the first half of the transfer don't seem to hold up as well as the later half. Much of the image takes on a rather drab, slightly obscure tone at first, not allowing for much in the way of vibrant colors or high levels of fine detail. Later in the movie, the image seems to brighten up, offering more robust and rich colors, and an appreciable, but not high, level of detail and texture. Both the early and later segments of the movie offer good high definition imagery, but neither qualify as "eye candy." Nor does the film exhibit much depth. The print's second half is also cleaner than its first; grain and blemishes both seem reduced later in the film. Blacks are strong, and flesh tones never veer too far from natural. Old School is certainly no Baraka, but DreamWork's efforts here are satisfactory and should please any and all die-hard fans.
Old School Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Old School parties hard on Blu-ray with an adequate Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The popular music that so permeates the picture spreads out nicely over the front channels, coming across as sufficient in volume and clarity at reference level. However, the foul-mouthed band playing at the wedding reception early in the film offers little in the way of a lifelike presence. This particular performance comes across as generally flat and uninspired. Some of the more rambunctious party sequences feature a fair amount of bass and presence around the soundstage, but nothing in the mix ever truly engulfs the listener. This mix offers very little in the way of rear channel activity, either in the form of ambient environmental support or discrete sound effects. Dialogue reproduction is crisp and natural, emanating from the center channel with solid clarity and at an appropriate volume in relation to the rest of the track. Old School doesn't offer listeners a new school lossless whiz-bang action extravaganza soundtrack, but considering it accompanies a comedy with only limited opportunity for sonic excellence, the track performs its assigned duties adequately enough.
Old School Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Old School earns a passing grade for its supplemental features. A commentary track featuring writer/director Todd Phillips and actors Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn headlines the set. Fortunately, the track is a laugh-a-minute, funnier in many places than the actual film, adding quite a bit of wit to what are usually more standard-fare commentary insights. Fans of the film and/or fans of any of these participants will want to give this one a listen. Eight deleted scenes (480p, 13:19) are included next. Old School Orientation (480p, 13:02) serves as a rather cheesy introduction to the film. A narrator takes audiences through the plot, intercut with footage from the film and interview snippets with the cast and crew. Inside the Actors Studio Spoof (480p, 13:39) is a humorous piece that pokes fun at the Emmy-nominated Bravo program, featuring Vaughn, Ferrell, Wilson, and Phillips, hosted by James Lipton (played by Farrell). Rounding out this supplemental package is a series of outtakes and bloopers (480p, 5:04), the film's theatrical trailer (1080i, 2:29), and three TV spots (480p, 1:36).
Old School Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Old School is a satisfactory film that continues the great tradition of academic-oriented comedies, but it falls a bit short of achieving the same classic status as its brethren. The primary cast turns in a solid set of performances, but the movie features hit-or-miss laughs and a plot that never seems to go anywhere until the end of the movie. Jeremy Piven, in particular, stands out as Dean Pritchard, the arch-nemesis of the film's trifecta of leading men. The film's strong following of dedicated fans are sure to be pleased with this release. DreamWorks has delivered an adequate high definition transfer, a passable lossless soundtrack, and a few bonus materials. It's not a package that will set the world on fire, but for those many repeat viewings, fans cannot currently enjoy Old School presented better than it is here.
Old School: Other Editions
Old School Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - December 16th - December 16, 2008
Since the days of Laserdisc, the Criterion Collection has dedicated their efforts to collecting the greatest classic and contemporary films from around the world, and make them available to the general public at the highest quality possible. Today, they release ...
• Old School Coming to Blu-ray - August 27, 2008
In an early announcement to retailers, Dreamworks Home Entertainment in conjunction with Paramount Home Entertainment have revealed that they will bring the comedy 'Old School' to Blu-ray on December 16th in its unrated form. Details of the release have yet to ...
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