Old School’s high concept has plenty of promise: A trio of 30-ish grown-ups start their own fraternity on the campus of a local college, bringing peace, love and kegstanding to males young and old. The sheer absurdity of frat-house tradition to civilians is foundation enough for a good number of comic bits — and to place those rituals in the hands of a group of middle-aged guys dreaming of days gone by is a twist so obvious that the utter predictability of it lends comic potential. But despite the presence of “Saturday Night Live” alum Will Ferrell, this is not Animal House: The Golden Years.
The mechanics of Old School are textbook. Mitch (Luke Wilson) walks in on his girlfriend about to be voluntarily gang-banged, moves out and buys a ramshackle house close to Harrison University. His best friend, Beanie (Vince Vaughn), a successful guy who owns a chain of electronics stores, sees this as the perfect opportunity to get a lot of coed ass and relive the best years of his life. Beanie is a pushy visionary, forcing Mitch to do all sorts of things he doesn’t really want to do, because that’s the dynamic of their relationship. Their Curly is Frank (Ferrell), oblivious to pretty much everything around him, but always up for a good duet with Snoop Dogg, who makes an unexpected cameo.
Old School manages to uphold some semblance of lowbrow pride by killing off a geezer named Blue in a pool of K-Y jelly, but it finishes somewhere between an “SNL” skit that never should have been turned into a feature-length film and a 90-minute laugh riot. Points to Wilson for remaining good-natured throughout and Farrell for stripping to his birthday suit for the umpteenth time.
It’s probably not fair to complain about any performance in a movie like this, but Vaughn is going through the motions (as he’s done for years now), playing the same can-do-must-do single-minded jerk who kind of wants to do the right thing but is too busy being proud of himself to do it right. He perfected this in Swingers and unsuccessfully attempted it in The Cell, and Beanie’s mission to erase his yuppie present is an appropriate venue for Vaughn to do his thing. But his typecasting can’t save Old School, where not much goes wrong but not enough goes right.
Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.