Tales of college life never grow ‘Old’

Dear “Old School,”

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve told you this, and that sometimes I might not be able to get the words out, but I just wanted to tell you, once and for all, for better or for worse, until the next college-themed movie wows me like you do, that I love you. You so fluidly combine all the best characteristics of your kind: your “Office Space”-like frustration with conferences and work-a-day BS, your subtle nod to the male mania and self-destruction of “Fight Club,” your clever use of Vince Vaughn’s “Swingers” persona as a crafty, illiterate speaker salesman, your blow-job instructor cameo by Andy Dick (dick!). I could go on and on about your qualities – I haven’t even mentioned your brilliant use of ear muffs, whippets or tranquilizer guns.

I know some have said that you are overly plotted, that you trivialize and moralize by having your characters grow (up) in the end. Some have also said that your direction, by Todd Phillips of “Road Trip” is sloppy and lacking in style. But I say, if you’re noticing those things, then you’re missing the point.

In fact, I’d say it’s even admirable that you try to tackle so many themes and issues, from drinking to casual sex, from libido-stifling long-term relationships to… well, I guess, casual sex. But in the end, isn’t this what college nostalgia movies are all about anyway? “Old School,” you’ve distilled the college experience to its best, most basic ingredients. For a generation of thirty-somethings who loved “Fight Club” but would be more apt to join a fraternity than an underground boxing club, your appeal is undeniable. “Old School,” you’ve pulled something off heretofore thought impossible: You are a college movie without a single college student as a main character. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you the names of any of the 11 pledges. Well, who could forget Blue, but other than him, keeping the focus squarely on the three leading men was a stroke of genius. Vaughn in particular seems to be having more fun than he’s had since he told Jon Favreau how money he was without even knowing it.

Your wisdom is in your demonstration that what’s funny about college is not the reality – the faculty-administration conflicts, the rich donors and presumptuous essay contests, the classes – it’s the lore of college, the myth of an all-night party with Snoop Dogg and streaking. So what if there isn’t a dean at Williams like the sniveling little dean played by Jeremy Piven, an ironic twist on his Belushi-style PCU character. So what if Snoop Dogg playing at a party here is about as likely as successfully taking more than one drink at Grab & Go. What I’m saying is that the chances are low.

But dear “Old School,” your dean comes closer to the way I want to imagine a college dean: wheeling and dealing, tempting students with dreams of Columbia Law School. I love your nods to “The Graduate,” your use of a Ryan Adams single, your clear attempt to appeal to me on every level, from my heart (who didn’t cry when the elderly Blue passed away?), to my groin (the KY jelly wrestling and the boss’s hot daughter), to my head. . . well, maybe not so much to my head.

In any case, as a funny movie, “Old School,” you are all things to all college students everywhere. That may sound like hyperbole, but I can’t find any other way to say it without a pair of ear muffs. I don’t know if I can wait for a sequel, so in the meantime, I’ll just have to see it again and again.

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