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Old School (Unrated and Out of Control) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Image'Tis the season for comedies.  "Old School" is the latest comedy film to join the Blu-ray ranks.  While trying to pay homage to "Animal House," it succeeds in living up to the "Revenge of the Nerds" standard – which may or may not be a good thing.  Still, it is hard not to enjoy the film, once you get past Vince Vaughn.

The film contains some powerful actors that deliver great performances (once again Vince Vaughn excluded).  Luke Wilson gets a starring role in this film as Mitch, The Godfather.  He is a real estate attorney that lives a pretty dull life, or so he thought.  After finding out that his girlfriend is a swinger, he moves out into his own place, on the edges of the local college campus.  Will Ferrell plays Frank "The Tank," a newlywed, while Vince Vaughn plays Beanie, a self-obsessed electronics store owner.

Mitch gets sucked into throwing a party at his new house, in which the entire college shows up, and Snoop Dogg guest stars.  The party is eventful: Frank reverts to his old drunk-fraternity member self, while Mitch gets drunk and sleeps with his boss' underage daughter.

The evil genius of the film is Dean Pritchard, played by the awesome Jeremy Piven.  Immediately after the party, the Dean gets the house re-classified as school property and evicts Mitch.  Beanie once again gets in the way and decides to get some college students together and start a fraternity to abide by the school's charter of campus housing use.  Reluctantly, Mitch goes along with it.  The really fun begins here.  The Mitch, Frank and Beanie team begin to recruit select students to join the fraternity.  A series of initiations occur, and Mitch becomes a legendary figure around campus, which begins to affect his personal life. Mitch begins to fall for an old high-school friend, Nicole, played by Ellen Pompeo of "Grey's Anatomy."  Unfortunately, her jerk of a boyfriend begins to spread terrible rumors of Mitch to Nicole, who then finds Mitch despicable.  Of course, it all works out in the end.

Using blackmail tactics, Dean Pritchard gets Mitch's new fraternity's charter rejected, and the students expelled from the university.  Naturally, there is a loop-hole that the fraternity exploits, naturally, winning in the end.

Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Jeremy Piven turn out stellar performances.  Vince Vaughn, in my opinion, is the same in every film, and quite annoying at that.  The script is good, but not really strong enough.  The cinematography is standard – nothing inventive.  The plot is similar to that of "Animal House," "Revenge of the Nerds" and "National Lampoon's Van Wilder."  The film must be seen as solely a slapstick comedy.  There are some subplots that come and go, but mainly it is just good fun.  It is not the "Animal House" of this generation, but it comes close.

The video is encoded at 1080p/AVC MPEG-4.  It is the same transfer that was used for the previously released HD DVD version.  The master print also looks to be the same as that of the original DVD release in 2003.  "Old School" as a bright and vibrant look to it.  The colors stand out, but only as much as the filmmakers' style will allow for.  The film tries to remain in the 1970s fashion, but still nicely incorporates the advancements in filmmaking technology.  The black levels are good, providing a straightforward look to the film.  The contrast is a bit hot at times, however, it does not subtract from the film all that much.  Details are rather impressive for a simply comedy.  Some of the darker scenes lose textures and details.  There is virtually no grain covering the image, and there is no evidence of digital noise reduction, edge enhancement or artifacting.  Overall, a solid transfer.

The audio has been upgraded from the Dolby Digital Plus track that was on the HD DVD release, to a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track.  However, there is not much an improvement between the two tracks.  This is mainly due to the original design of the film.  Essentially, this comedy film is front-heavy.  There are a few discrete effects in the surround channels here and there, but nothing major.  The big party probably contains the most rear channel presence.  The dynamic range is improved slightly, but still only within the realm of comedy films.  The dialogue is however, crisp and clear, so it is hard to fault the transfer.  The original sound design is just empty.  The mix is a bit unbalanced.  Sometimes the music is little overpowering.  Still, a solid comedy sound transfer.

The bonus materials are the same as the original DVD releases, and still in standard definition.  This is the unrated edition of the film and not the theatrical version.  There is some more mature content add in the unrated edition.  First, there is an audio commentary with several names: director Todd Phillips, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson.  The players here offer little in the way of informative material.  Mostly it is a lesson in silliness.  "Old School Orientation" is full of cast and crew interviews and video clips.  "Inside the Actor's Spoof" is the highlight of the disc.  Will Ferrell reprises his role as James Lipton and interviews Wilson, Vaughn and himself.  Definitely don't miss this special feature.  From the Cutting Room Floor is a collection of eight deleted scenes, and for once they are actually pretty funny and I wish they were in the film.  Lastly there are some outtakes/bloopers and TV Spots.

"Old School" is a standard comedy film, which most of you will enjoy.  However, I find that it can't be watched routinely.  It is a good film to revisit several years after your initial view.  The video quality is right on track, offering vibrancy, but the audio still suffers from a lack of sound design and dynamics.  Overall, a good laugh film.  "You're my boy Blue!"

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