Quick Hit: Classic comedy is present in every scene.
Comedy comes in many forms and is different for many people. For some, a dry, understated humor is best (think Woody Allen film). Others require off the wall humor that is in your face (like The Hangover). Some need something a bit more slap stick (Blades of Glory). But I think sometimes a comedy comes along that perfectly encapsulates the comedy of particular generations. When people stumble across a movie like Animal House, it changes the way they view comedy.
Take for instance, the plot. It’s something that is simple and has been repeated ad nauseum. A crazy fraternity on campus that is spurned by the dean and is attempted to get kicked off. It’s something that you see even in recent years (is Old School still considered recent?). But here it feels… fresh – because it was. Along with that, it has an energy that those films often lack. The characters are original, even if now they have become characters of themselves.
Another part of this was just how real everything feels here. You know some of these guys. You know the uptight guys and the strict dean, and you know the losers that just want to be accepted by someone. The town itself feels real and lived it - a credit to those that put the sets together. It is really a remarkable event that despite how over the top everything becomes by the end - you believe that this could be a real town.
Much of this comes from Landis’s writing and direction. It would have been easy to fly off the handles with this movie, but there are moments that are full of control in regards to the humor. For every time Blutarsky goes off the rails, there is another moment where he is simply staring at the camera and raising his eyebrows. In fact, the man has very few lines at all. This recognition of what could truly be funny was one of Landis’s strengths. Sometimes, it doesn’t require anything more than energy.
And man, does this cast have that. From the amazing feats of Flounder catching all the items in the grocery store one after the other, to Blutarsky smashing can after can on his head, it’s full of the pep and energy that you would expect. The final scene is obviously the most energetic in the movie, and it’s easy to see that the whole movie has built to this moment. Here, there was no CGI – this is just raw, pure chaos, with practical stunts. And the carnage and energy shows – all down to the parody of Errol Flynn and his ripped sail – looking at you Blu.
Belushi is a monster onscreen. When he’s not the main focus, you can almost feel the camera wanting to come back to him. His best scene is the one that most would point to – not his rousing speech, but his quiet, introspective observation of the girls having a pillow fight. Nothing in this film is funnier than that. Well, except for maybe the scene on the stairs with the guitar. And the scenes where he starts the Toga party. And the one from above. And the one with the horse. Ok, so maybe all the Belushi scenes are perfect.
Overall has the movie aged? Absolutely. There are racial jokes and sexual orientation slurs. There are jokes that are a bit off taste, and some that go over the line. But what Animal House can teach you goes far beyond where the lines lie. It shows you that comedy that shows restraint can be some of the funniest around, and that when the shackles come off, chaos is funny too.
I’m giving Animal House an “A”.
For more on this, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"