National Lampoon’s Animal House / Animal House (1978)

“If the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general?”

Synopsis:
During pledge week in 1962, two young college students (Tom Hulce and Stephen Furst) find themselves joining a raucous fraternity — whose members include a “smooth-talking, skirt-chasing president” (Tim Matheson), a student (Peter Riegert) whose girlfriend (Karen Allen) tries to convince him to “settle down”, and two “resident wild men” (John Belushi and Bruce McGill) — which the strait-laced dean (John Vernon) is determined to shut down.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “influential”, “raucous, raunchy film that became the highest-grossing comedy of all time” — directed by John Landis — “still inspires films that can’t compare to it”. He notes that there “is a lot of destruction” as “the fraternity fights back” against Dean Wormer’s (Vernon’s) attempts to “close down Delta House and expel all the members”, and points out that this “uninhibited film is often hilarious; like his characters, director Landis exhibits inspired lunacy”. Meanwhile, “the characters are so likable that we aren’t turned off when Belushi peeps into sorority girls’ windows while they undress (he gives us a great devilish smile); when Belushi, McGill, and Furst are responsible for the death of a horse in Vernon’s office; when Belushi spits food all over obnoxious students; … or when Matheson manipulates a girl to make love to him by pretending he is the grieving former boyfriend of her recently deceased roommate.” While Peary argues that the “finale is too wild, and hackneyed”, he writes that “before this there are numerous funny moments and scenes” — though he points out it’s “not for all tastes”. Most distressing are the scenes positing non-whites as perennial outsiders, and/or — in the case of a visit to a black music joint — menacing threats; but I suppose it could be argued that this simply highlights the white characters’ inanity, paranoia, and unfounded prejudices.

Note: Watch for Donald Sutherland in a small role as a hip, grass-smoking professor, and Kevin Bacon in his debut role as new pledge “Chip Diller”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • John Belushi as Bluto
  • John Vernon as Dean Vernon Wormer

Must See?
Yes, as a cult classic.

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One Response to “National Lampoon’s Animal House / Animal House (1978)”

  1. A must see for many as National Lampoon’s best (and one can say only good) film (since I despise the Vacation films).

    This is anarchy at its finest, and it holds up greatly until the ending which I find to chaotic and anti-climatic. I much prefer the build up.

    A nice ensemble cast of comedians and straight actors.

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