Review by Mark Wiechman
Belushi, Tim Matheson, Tom Hulce, Karen Allen, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Bacon
Director: John Landis
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Color
Audio: Dolby 5.1
Features: See review
Length: 109 Minutes
Release Date: August 26, 2003
this really what you are going to do for the rest of your life?"
do you mean?"
mean, hanging around with a bunch of animals getting drunk every weekend?"
After I graduate, I'm going to get drunk every night!"
It has always fascinated me how so many good movies
with a lasting impact on the medium were actually never supposed to happen and
involve so many future stars in cinema. In
most of these success stories, the budget is low, the cast and creators are
unknown, and the studio footing the bill has no idea what it has on its hands
and often ignores the film or actively tries to stop its completion or release.
Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H definitely
fits this bill, him being the only well-known part of the production. Animal House and
almost the same movie and plot except that the latter is the Army in Korea and
the former is a bunch of kids in 1962 American academia.
And of course, Donald Sutherland starred in both.
The story is really pretty simple.
On the Faber College campus, the Delta House is well-known as the best
party house and also has the lowest GPA.
It is also probably the biggest dump on campus.
As the movie opens, potential pledges are going from one house to another
looking for action, and some of them are unfortunate enough to become pledges
with the Deltas. The dean naturally
wants the fraternity gone, and since they are already on probation, he is
looking for any excuse to ban them from campus forever.
We follow Bluto (Belushi), Otter (Tim Matheson), Pinto (Tom Hulce), and
Boon (Peter Riegert) stumble through the days before the big showdown with the
administration, trying to have as much fun as possible without being thrown out.
is hilarious for its completely unapologetic lack of reverence for, well,
anything at all. It never takes
itself seriously until the fraternity itself is being physically pulled apart
and full beer cases begin to break (as opposed to empty ones being thrown out). John Belushi's expression of horror in that scene and his
completely politically incorrect attitudes about just about everything in the
movie certified him a star. The
kids suddenly have to grow up after seven years of college and want to go out
with a bang.
Being a regular West
Wing viewer, it was doubly hilarious for me to watch Tim Matheson (who
played the Vice President for a few seasons on that show) compare the attack on
the Deltas to attacking America itself. He
really does come across like a leader, who still does not hesitate to bed his
dean’s wife, carelessly throwing her clothes on the floor in a chic dorm room
that would make Hugh Hefner proud.
While everyone agrees that this film spawned tons of
imitators which furthered the youth debauchery movement in film, what most
viewers have missed is the movie’s let’s-just-have-fun feeling, before our
age of political correctness when you could just play good rock ‘n roll at a
party and dance with any cute girl you see and drink until you threw up and then
go to class the next day when you discover their real ages or that they have
boyfriends. Not that I EVER did
such a thing, of course…ahem…(EDITOR’S NOTE:
I went to college with Mark.
Illicit photos from those days may be posted shortly.)
Even the music is a star of the film featuring the
weary, tired old Faber College theme as The Tradition and Louie, Louie being the theme of the young partiers.
Of course the best version ever of Shout
is here in all its glory and Wonderful
World plays while John Belushi cleans his dishes, reminding us of days when
we thought fast food was actually good for you and better than cafeteria food
(even when it was free).
The packaging claims that it is “better than the original” audio and picture quality, and it are as good a transfer as you could expect for an older film, though I can’t compare it with the original theatrical release of course. There is some spottiness in darker scenes which is to be expected with older analog releases but it is not too noticeable.
The features focus on how the movie came to be and
emphasize how many magical moments were improvised or added on the fly,
especially Belushi's. This was
largely due to budget constraints but worked just fine as it often does in great
comedies. Much praise and credit is
spread around among a fine group of writers and producers who genuinely cared
about each other and the production of a movie they believed in.
One of the cooler features is a setting allowing little trivia bits to
pop up on screen like a pop-up video, but less annoying.