Anthony's Film Review

National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)

For better or for worse, Animal House sets the bar for raunchy comedy...

If you're like me, you dislike the culture of college fraternities, particularly ones that engage in wild and depraved behavior that is heavily oriented in alcohol and sex, and maybe drugs. If you're like me, you are less inclined to watch movies depicting gross-out humor in college situations that have no conceivable connection to education. And if you're like me, you want to blame all of that on a movie that can be said to have set the stage for such low-brow cinema. That said, I present to you my quick review of National Lampoon's Animal House. Not because I despised the movie, but because I liked the movie despite my real-life dislike of immature college students. (In case it isn't obvious, I was trying to be funny with the first three sentences of this paragraph.)

Animal House, inspired by stories written for the humor magazine National Lampoon, is set at Faber College in 1962. John Belushi, Thomas Hulce, and several other interesting cast members (including Kevin Bacon in a debut role) play characters on two sides of a campus conflict. On one side is the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, which is the worst on campus because its stupid, drunken, wild, and juvenile members engage in the most immature behavior you can imagine and do so in a dilapidated frat house. On the other side is the Omega Theta Pi fraternity next door, which is far more refined and sophisticated than Delta Tau Chi (though Omega's members are pretty darn snobbish), plus the frustrated college dean who wants nothing more than to expel the Delta students once and for all. This is an example of a story where the audience is forced to, with positive results, take the side of characters that would otherwise not get the same support in real life. Yes, even I, a guy who frowns upon immature college students, liked to follow the exploits of the Delta boys.

There's not really much of a story here otherwise. That's OK, because the point of this movie is to enjoy laughs, not follow a plot. Therefore, this movie is a string of scenes involving funny things happening on campus, with little connection to each other overall. Expect to see moments related to a practical joke involving a horse, being a peeping tom outside the girls' dorm window, fraternity initiations, and a campus hearing. For me, I laughed a couple of times, and they were quick but still delightful chuckles. There is one scene, however, that I definitely liked, not because it's funny but because it's lively. In the middle of the movie, Delta Tau Chi throws a toga party, which does lead to raunchy sex for some characters but is mainly notable for a musical sequence that is fun to watch.

The only part of the movie where I laughed longer and louder was during the film's climax at a homecoming parade. This is where, in outrageous fashion, the Delta boys crash the celebration and really make themselves known. The scene has plenty of physical comedy and slapstick. And I cheered for the Delta boys, too, even if these characters really have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Well, OK, there's still one thing going for them. The end of this scene has a funny and interesting way of telling all of us that anyone, even these pathetic, juvenile, and irresponsible losers, can have opportunities to succeed in life. What makes it funny is that it seems to be so true in real life.

So while much of the movie was OK for me, I'm willing to give it a little more praise than that after the entertaining finale, especially knowing that this movie would set the stage for raunchy college and non-college comedies down the line. I'm not one of those die-hard Animal House fans who would treat this movie as a cult classic, but I can understand the appeal. I will never ever get near college fraternities and all of the things they do, but at least I got some good laughs with this gang of frat boys. Who knew that seven wasted years of college would amount to something?

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about National Lampoon's Animal House, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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