Movie Review: “Animal House”


Movie Review: Animal HouseI’ve probably seen the legendary comedy “Animal House” at least two dozen times now, and I imagine I’ll see it another two dozen times before I die. My college buddies and I used to watch it religiously in our dorm rooms and then later in our rundown house, cracking up every time John Belushi impersonated a zit in the Faber College cafeteria. We memorized virtually the entire script and repeatedly recited classic lines like, “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son,” and “Do you mind if we dance with your dates?” We despised Doug Neidermeyer and admired Eric Stratton. We even had a guy in our fraternity named David Day, who naturally went by the nickname D-Day.

None of this may seem all that extraordinary considering the popularity “Animal House” enjoyed when it first hit theaters in 1978. But the fact that I graduated from Ohio University in 1999, more than two decades after its original release, demonstrates the cultural prominence this frat film has achieved.

We’re first introduced to freshman roommates Larry Kroger (Tom Hulce) and Kent Dorfman (Stephen Furst) as they’re walking through the picturesque Faber campus during fall rush in 1962. After getting shunned by the sanctimonious Omega fraternity, led by president Greg Marmalard (James Daughton) and Neidermeyer (Mark Metcalf), the chapter’s membership chairman, Larry and Kent wander next door to the Delta house and meet Bluto (Belushi), who’s taking a leak in the front yard.

Movie Review: Animal House - John Belushi

Once inside the unruly fraternity house, the two first-years meet some of Delta’s most notorious brothers, including Eric “Otter” Stratton (Tim Matheson), Donald “Boon” Schoenstein (Peter Riegert), Robert Hoover (James Widdoes) and “D-Day,” Daniel Simpson Day (Bruce McGill). A few days later, Larry and Kent are given their own nicknames, “Pinto” and “Flounder,” and officially sworn in as two of Delta’s new pledges.

Much of the enduring appeal surrounding “Animal House” no doubt stems from its blatantly rebellious cast of heroes, whose raucous lifestyle directly contradicts the stringent values imposed by Dean Vernon Wormer (John Vernon) and upheld by the members of the Omega house. Whether they’re throwing a wild toga party after discovering the entire chapter’s been put on “double secret probation” or seducing Dean Wormer’s drunken wife, Otter, Boon, Bluto and the rest of the Deltas have been earning our respect for 25 years by conquering the system and remaining loyal to their own indulgent ideals.

While Belushi delivers some of the most memorable moments of the film as the outrageous Bluto, “Animal House” served as a launching pad for several other notable actors, including Matheson, Kevin Bacon (as arrogant Omega pledge Chip Diller), Riegert, McGill and Karen Allen, while also igniting the careers of director John Landis (“The Blues Brothers,” “An American Werewolf in London,” “Trading Places,” “Coming to America”) and writer Harold Ramis (“Caddyshack,” “Stripes,” “Ghostbusters,” “Analyze This”). The comedy classic undeniably also stands as the blueprint for other popular college films like “PCU,” “Road Trip” and, most recently, “Old School.”

After more than two decades, it would be an understatement to say that “Animal House” simply has withstood the test of time. With a script that still rings true 25 years later and a steady stream of priceless gags and timeless one-liners, Ramis, Landis and their colleagues created a party film that’s deeply rooted in the soil of popular culture. I’m willing to bet 25 years from now, “Animal House” will be inspiring a whole new generation of rowdy college students and filmmakers.

5/5 Stars
Starring: John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Peter Riegert, Bruce McGill, Karen Allen, Kevin Bacon, James Widdoes, Tom Hulce, Stephen Furst, James Daughton, Mark Metcalf, John Vernon, Karen Allen, Donald Sutherland
Director: John Landis

Theatrical Release Date: July 28, 1978

Animal House: 30th Anniversary Edition DVD Review:

The standard DVD release will be more than enough for most people, but hardcore “Animal House” fans who don’t own a proper special edition of the film will dig this 30th Anniversary set. Of course, it’s pretty much another superfluous offering from an industry that loves to repackage and recycle its products every few years, so forget about replacing a previous special edition with this one. In fact, the enjoyable 98-minute documentary on the set’s second disc is the only new feature worth mentioning here, and most of the extras were included as recently as 2003 in the “Double Secret Probation” edition. But none of these gripes diminishes the legacy of the movie itself, one of the truly essential guy comedies ever made and a movie that most people are still introduced to during their college years, if not sooner. And while making the included “Faber College Yearbook” a hardcover edition rather than a thin paperback would have been an easy upgrade, there’s enough here to justify the set’s reasonable price tag. We could’ve done without the oversized packaging – cardboard replica of the Delta house that’s far too big for the book and standard DVD case – but as an addition to a DVD collection rather than a substitution, this is a must-buy.


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