Retro Film Review: Animal House (1978)

in film •  last year 

One of the things that differentiates the author of this review from most of the world's film critics is the opinion of John Landis. Many of Landis' films, often lauded by critics, were disappointments for me. That is especially the case in the latter part of his career, and it is hard to imagine why and how that author reached a cult status. But, earlier, while he was starting his career in 1970s, he used to make quite nice films. One of the most legendary ones is Animal House, 1978 comedy that was overshadowed by his greatest success - Blues Brothers, shot two years later.

This film actually doesn't have a lot of plot. It is set in fictional Faber college in 1962 and chronicles the struggle between two student fraternities - Omegas, nice, by-the-book, rich, arrogant and powerful students; and Deltas, nonconformist losers who, instead of studying, spend all their time on alcohol, drugs, sex and different kinds of orgies. Their activity become the thorn in the side of the college administration who decide to kick them all out. But the brave Deltas would refuse to give up without a fight, which would culminate in the apocalyptic parade in the end.

Some may think that Animal House represents sorts of autobiography for its writer Chris Miller, who based the plot on his own experiences as Darthmouth College student in 1962. Others may argue that Landis in this film, by portraying the rivalry between Omegas and Deltas, gives his own commentary about the great struggle between the forces of Old and New in 1960s America. But the real motive for Animal House was most likely nothing more than an excuse for entire series of jokes, many of them so tasteless that they were really challenging the standards of its, rather liberal, times. Yes, some of these jokes are rather tasteless, many of them including Bluto (brilliantly played by late John Belushi) and his repetitive use of bodily fluids becomes boring after a while. Some other jokes aren't so funny either. But guess what? Film as a whole works as an excellent guilty pleasure. It made without any redeeming values nor high artistic standards, but it makes other, more noble and ambitious works, to pale in comparison simply by entertaining viewers. Most of the jokes are funny characters are well- played by excellent actors (Donald Sutherland, John Vernon and young Kevin Bacon among others), and the soundtrack is very good. The only real reason to bash *Animal House? is the fact that it spawned entire sub-genre of its imitations in the decade to come – movies with the words "soft", "hard" and "body" in title, all of them sharing this film’s low standards, but not the talent of its creators. But we shouldn't be too harsh towards Animal House - today, same as two decades ago, it serves its purpose by making us laugh.

RATING: 7/10 (+++)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on June 10th 1999)


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