Old School [HD DVD]
R0 - America - DreamWorks/Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Gary Jukes (25th January 2008).
The Film

When real estate lawyer Mitch (Luke Wilson) breaks up with his cheating girlfriend and moves into a house near a college, his two best friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and Frank (Will Ferrell) convince him it would be a good idea to start up a fraternity. Mitch, arguably the more grown-up of the trio, resists, but Bernard and Frank go ahead anyway taking Mitch along for the ride. It's not long before their loud parties and rising popularity with the college students brings them into conflict with the Dean, Dean Pritchard (Jeremy Piven), who the three know from their high school days. As the fraternity continues to recruit new members and grow in popularity, the Dean does his best to get the fraternity shut down and Mitch and co. out on the streets, using whatever means he can.

With its misfit heroes, evil college Dean, fraternity house fighting to stay alive, and numerous wild parties, 'Old School' feels like an 'Animal House' for the modern age. But despite some very funny moments it ultimately falls short due to the patchy script, which doesn't have nearly as many laughs as it should. What we end up with is basically a character study of three 30-somethings wanting to relive their youth: Frank, recently married but having relationship problems, quickly regresses to his college persona of "Frank the Tank" in the fraternity environment, while Bernard, married with kids and the owner of a succesful business, starts arranging parties and fraternity pranks away from the watchful eye of his wife. Even Mitch starts to unwind and enjoy himself, drinking too much at his house-warming party and unknowingly sleeping with his boss's daughter. There are some hilarious moments - Frank accidentally shooting himself in the neck with a tranquillizer gun is a highlight - but there are some very unfunny moments too, like Andy Dick's (thankfully) brief appearance. The three leads turn in great comedic performances as you would expect, but they are also good in the more serious scenes, particularly Ferrell. There are brief appearances by some familiar faces like Elisha Cuthbert, Juliette Lewis, Seann William Scott and Terry O'Quinn, who puts in a great cameo performance as Mitch's boss.

Although this version is labelled as 'Unrated', with a note on the cover stating "unrated scenes contain mature subject matter", there's nothing too risqué on show, except for some partial nudity during the KY Jelly wrestling match.

Video

The 2.35:1 1080p transfer is excellent as expected, showing good detail in both close-ups and longer distance shots like the overheads of the college campus. Colours are especially vivid and the darker scenes hold up well.

Audio

The English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 soundtrack is decent enough, although there isn't much activity from the rears except during the larger crowd scenes like Mitch's party (EX decoding works very well here). The songs used on the soundtrack come across well, especially the brief use of Metallica's "Master of Puppets", a personal favourite of mine. There are also Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 soundtracks in French and Spanish, plus optional English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

Extras

First off is an audio commentary with writer/director Todd Phillips and actors Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn. This is a fairly pedestrian commentary track with little insight into the filming (although Phillips does point out the numerous Fight Club references dotted throughout the film), the participants spending most of the running time poking fun at each other.

Far better is the 'Inside the Actor's Studio Spoof' (13:39), with Will Ferrell playing the host, James Lipton. Ferrell's portrayal of the fawning Lipton is spot-on, while the other actors involved (Ferrell (again), Wilson, Vaugn) plus director Phillips send themselves up brilliantly.

"Old School Orientation" (13:02) is a fairly standard 'making of' featurette, designed to give away as much of the plot as possible along with many of the best jokes. Sadly little time is given to the actual making of the film.

'Outtakes & Bloopers' (5:04) features the usual cast mishaps and assorted mugging to the camera, all set to music.

There are eight Deleted Scenes (12:59), all of which are pretty average and don't add anything to the film. Rounding out the extras are a Theatrical Trailer (2:32) and three TV-Spots (1:35).

Overall



Equipment used: Toshiba HD-XE1, Toshiba 37X3030DB, Onkyo TX-SR605, Mission 7.1 speaker setup

The Film: B- Video: A Audio: B Extras: C+ Overall: B-

 


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