Review: National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)

>> Monday, January 1, 2007

USA/C-109 m./Dir: John Landis/Wr: Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney, & Chris Miller/Cast: John Belushi (Bluto), Tim Matheson (Otter), John Vernon (Dean Wormer), Peter Riegert (Boon), Tom Hulce (Pinto), Stephen Furst (Flounder), Karen Allen (Katy), Bruce McGill (D-Day)

If you remember your college years, you didn’t fully enjoy your college years; and no film captures that perfect pairing of liquor and higher education quite as well as National Lampoon’s Animal House. This subversive, campus comedy set in the early Sixties concerns the high jinks (drunken, illegal, sexual, and otherwise) of the denizens of Delta House, Faber College’s rowdiest, dirtiest, drinkin’est frat. The Deltas are an embarrassment to Dean Wormer (the wonderfully slimy John Vernon), who puts the boys on “double-secret probation” and tries to shut down the house with the help of the Omegas, a rival, preppy fraternity. Of course, the Deltas retaliate with the mother of all stupid, disgusting, alcohol-fueled pranks.

Animal House is most notable for introducing the world to the most iconic of all movie party animals, John “Bluto” Blutarsky. Portrayed with sloppy, vulgar vitality by John Belushi,
Blutarsky is utterly unforgettable, because his character is so true to life. Everyone knew a beer-swilling merrymaker like Bluto back in his or her college days. That is, unless you were the Bluto Blutarsky of your college.

The rest of the cast of soon-to-be-knowns are equally good at creating iconic collegiate characters. For example, no troublemaker has ever been more charming than Tim Matheson’s Otter and no dork has ever been as enthusiastically clueless as Stephen Furst’s Flounder. Of course, the actors wouldn’t have been nearly as good without the help of the wonderfully subversive script, based upon the actual college days of Ramis and Miller. The intelligent writing lifts this production head and shoulders above the lesser “gross-out” comedies to which it is often compared.

Animal House isn’t a perfect film--some of the cartoon gags during the parade-centered finale clash with the more realistic character-based jokes that preceded them--but John Landis’ movie is the best and funniest “drunken misfit” comedy yet produced. Future generations will continue to watch Animal House in preparation for college, much to the chagrin of their parents. Toga! Toga! Toga!


Drinks Consumed--Beer, bourbon, and spiked punch


Intoxicating Effects--Belching, staggering, stumbling, swearing, passing out, public urination, vomiting, harmonizing, drunk driving, destruction of property, loosened inhibitions, and soused sex.

Potent Quotables--BLUTO: My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.
OTTER: You better listen to him, Flounder. He’s in Pre-Med.


Video Availability--National Lampoon's Animal House DVD (Universal)

Similarly Sauced Cinema-- Hollywood tried to recapture the magic of Animal House’s R-rated campus humor with the 2003 comedy, Old School, but the results were a mixed bag.


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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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