Old School - Unrated  (2003)


Starring: Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn
Todd Phillips

Rating: NR

Studio: DreamWorks SKG

Release Date: 6.10.03

Review Posted: 6.18.03

Spoilers: Minor


By Chris McGeachy, DVDork.com




What's a guy supposed to do when he catches the early flight home and finds his girlfriend in a bed with a roomful of strangers? Return to college and start a fraternity! Before you can say "wild and wet wrestling", Frank "The Tank" (Will Ferrell), Mitch (Luke Wilson) and Beanie (Vince Vaughn) have their own frat raging with out-of-control antics. But when things get too wild, the dean sets out to shut them down.




What the hell happened to comedies? For nearly a decade now comedy has moved from making you laugh at this and that to making you laugh at poop and boobs and other such sickly things. We’ve seen a guy fornicate with a pie, we’ve seen a man eat a testicle and we’ve seen too much to do with semen in my opinion. I don’t really find humor all that funny when it starts to make me cringe – which is one of the reasons I think Old School succeeds. There aren’t any jokes that will really make you squirm in this movie. Instead of gearing the audience to have their barf bags ready Old School manages to take the talents of three very funny men and meld them into a pretty good film.


The genre is one that’s been done before – College. What is our obsession with college, we may never know… and while there have probably been College comedies that are similar in style to Old School I can’t admit that I really enjoyed this one. Let’s face it – guys know how guys work, and this is the bet Old School puts all of its chips on. Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson are all getting on in their years and when opportunity presents itself they start a fraternity (mostly due to the somewhat narcissistic motivation that Vaughn’s character puts upon the other two). This isn’t just your regular group of College boy idiots who love keggers though, these guys don’t discriminate and the frat is more like a community club.


I don’t really need to waste your time telling you about the jokes, if you’re looking to laugh then I’d make a bet this film is up your alley. Still not convinced? Well Vaughn, Ferrell and Wilson are all given a little breathing room and their different styles meld together for an interesting end product. I should mention now that I hate comedy reviews – mainly because it’s so difficult to review them. You either give up far too much information while ruining the good gags, or you give away too little and don’t make anyone want to see the movie. You’re going to have to follow your senses on this one – if you’re one chromosome extra, then you’re probably going to like it, and if you’ve ever been in college or you just like that style of movie you’re probably going to love it.


The comedy has a lot of formula, but keeps things fresh enough to stop the whole thing from stinking up the fridge. Let’s face it, men know men – and I’m not trying to get sentimental on you, but I’d just like to point out that only men know what’s going through each others minds and while we don’t admit to being a collective like the fairer sex we do have our moments. The film also features cameos by the ever-more bizarre Andy Dick and rapper Snoop Dogg.  


Old School was directed by Todd Phillips. Most of you might recognize his other work ‘Road Trip’ – another college comedy featuring the antics of Tom Green. This film does follow a formula, one that hasn’t changed since some of the very first college films – but it’s not a bad thing. There are romances, there’s hazing and rituals and of course there’s the college style ‘Olympics’ needed to save the day. Old School doesn’t really hinge itself on too many plot devices (though there are a few) and really just puts more focus on the humor.


Another person who really should be mentioned is Mark Irwin, cinematographer of Old School. IMDB.com has a listing of his flicks (click for new window) which shows that over the last decade he’s been a busy man, working on a little of everything from Scream to Old School. Irwin and Philips had both previously worked together on Road Trip, and Philips must like his style to have him return. Irwin manages to do some interesting things with the camera – and while it’s nothing that will have you soiling your dungarees it makes the film go down a lot smoother by holding our attention in place. There are some pretty good images in the film which stand out as well (as you can notice from our screen grabs). Some say that a well developed comedy focuses not on the jokes being told, but how they’re being told onscreen – and Irwin manages to give a very natural look to this film (notice his work also includes Farrelly Brothers comedies aplenty) and makes things a little more interesting in a strictly visual sense.


All formula aside, the film really succeeds by creating likeable characters – characters whom we enjoy enough not to hate, but hate enough to laugh at, if that makes any sense whatsoever. Will Ferrell’s character Frank is quite out there – much like Ferrell himself, Vaughn’s Beanie is full of a lot of talk which brought me back to Swingers and Luke Wilson’s Mitch has his moments as well, though his comedy is based more on incident than vocalization. Once again my hatred for the comedy review becomes apparent as that doesn’t sound one frikkin ounce of funny. Just go see it guys.


Things don’t tie up in a neat package for every character in the film, and it’s one of the last things that I think needs to be mentioned. Old School isn’t really a film that derives too much from a formula, but when it does it’s like a refreshing taste of your favorite corporate flavored soft-drink. For a genre of films that has been replicated in so many fashions – namely the college flick – I thought it was a good choice, if an all too brief one, to breathe some fresh air into the decrepit lungs of repetition.


There are laughs here for those of you who enjoy are willing to sit back and enjoy. Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell really steal the show, but Wilson also has his moments. The story is really just another college movie for the most part, but I found there were a lot of laughs in the end.


8 out of 10


The Video


Old School: Unrated is presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, one that’s anamorphic I might add. The colors and lighting in this film are all very natural, and I found the disc to have no major problems in its presentation, though I did notice a few flaws in the transfer. Edge Enhancement shows up to ruin the party, but luckily it’s pretty subdued to only a few scenes. The print also suffers from a few nicks, but again this is nothing major.


7 out of 10


The Audio


On the audio side you may be surprised to hear that Old School features both DTS and Dolby surround tracks, both in 5.1 audio. It’s a comedy though folks – so don’t expect anything popping up that will shock and amaze you. Still, it’s a nice little array of options – though I found myself favoring the DTS track which had a little more depth during the scenes involving parties or loud effects. The tracks are mixed pretty well and dialogue comes through clear.


8 out of 10


The Extras


If you’re a Widescreen advocate, then you’ll want to know that Old School is only available in a widescreen presentation via the Unrated edition route. This edition adds approximately 3 minutes to the film, as well as gives you ‘unrated’ menus which are just a couple of scenes from the movie which feature boobies strung into the menu. The special features are pretty stacked for a comedy – though only a one-disc release there be some great goodies for all you land lubbers out there.


The feature length commentary is one of the best I’ve heard in a while, and while I think the boys were a little funnier on their Late Night publicity appearances on various talk shows this one is definitely on of the better commentaries I’ve heard. Featuring Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson and an also very funny director Todd Phillips, this one will keep you entertained throughout and is a recommended listen to anyone looking for those extra laughs.


From the cutting room floor is just under 15 minutes of footage cut from the film. A couple of these scenes are just extensions of ones in the movie, but there are some that add to the story and actually do have a couple of good laughs in there (but ultimately you can see why most were cut). ‘Outtakes’ is an 8-minute blooper reel that is just that.


A made for TV production Old School Orientation is really just your run of the mill DVD fluff – you’re not getting any new info on the film and it was just thrown in for good measure. Much more interesting is the spoof of James Lipton’s Inside the Actor’s Studio which I found to be a little dry – but definitely much better than the documentary. This feature has Will Ferrell impersonating Mr. Lipton interviewing himself and the rest of the members featured in the commentary. This one runs just shy of 25 minutes.


Trailers and TV Spots gives us three TV spots and the theatrical trailer. There are also previews to various other discs coming from DreamWorks. Image Gallery is a surprising 80 or so shots from the disc and I found it to be pretty good overall. There’s also the regular DVD stuff – production notes, cast & crew bios – and I should mention that there are two very easy to find easter eggs which should keep you guys going when all is said and done.


9 out of 10




If you like to laugh then this is your flick. Old School has moments of formula but is pulled from drowning by the funny leads. The disc has got plenty to offer fans, and if you’re looking for a great commentary then I totally recommend this disc.


Review originally appeared on DVDork.com









OVERALL (average)





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