What’s it About?
At a 1962 college, Dean Vernon Wormer is determined to expel the entire Delta Tau Chi Fraternity, but those trouble-makers have other plans for him.
Directed By John Landis
“I’m a Zit! Get it?”
I still believe to this day, that I was taken way too young to see Animal House. But I actually didn’t mind. My mind wasn’t that fragile (but my eyes were wide open). I found it strangely refreshing, vulgar, and gross. Plus, it had SNL alum John Belushi, soul singer Sam Cooke and copeous nudity. National Lampoon’s crude and wild Animal House was so completely original at the time and on so many levels that it has endured as one of the best comedies about University misfits usurping the uptight academic establishment ever filmed. If there was ever a frat house with the most disreputable band of lazy, brutish hooligans it’s Delta house. A motley crew of losers with a heart of gold, just trying to fit in at Faber College, in 1962 in this John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) helmed comedy brainchild. I would even go as far as to say that Animal House may be the funniest (if a bit dated, occasionally) film about horny college life ever made.
The brilliant and late John Belushi acts in his first starring role as the perpetually slovenly “Bluto” Blutarsky, the always drunken but affable ( dare I say love-able) un-official leader of the Delta House group at Faber College, who have been in college for about seven years, and should probably all be Doctors by now. He delightfully steals every scene he is in and when he isn’t even reciting any lines, he makes you crack up with just his buffonish facial expressions. The cafeteria, toga and guitar smashing scenes are utterly uproarious and pure Belushi at his comedic best. Director John Landis working off a great, natural script from Doug Kenny, Chris Millier and Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, Analyze This, Ghostbusters) shows us another side to these misfits that most audiences never knew or remotely cared about. It’s the admiration we and sympathy to these underdogs in academia that makes their exploits (from peeking on undressing females to stuffing a pound of Jello into one’s mouth) memorable and retains that jocular charm until this day.
We get to care about them and learn what it is they really want from everyone else at Faber, and that is respect, acknowledgement and fun, and they will do anything to get. Even if it means buying 10,000 marbles or even if it means crashing the Annual Homecoming Day Parade. Miller’s script is partly based on actual stories that were eventually published in National Lampoon and they were in part completely auto-biographical. He was even called “Pinto” like one of the Delta house frat brothers. To note, every character from Pinto, D-Day and even Bluto get their on screen moment to shine and take participation in the troubles they all get into. The cast which not only sports Belushi, consists of Thomas Hulce, Stephen Furst, Karen Allen, Donald Sutherland and Tim Matheson. They are all respectively shine here, in early roles and it’s refreshing to see them cutting their collective comedic teeth in this farcical comedy.
They all play effectively well to the material and most importantly, do create humor in the situations naturally and never come across forced. One standout being Donald Sutherland’s little pot party discussing heady themes while partaking with his very students. The looseness, hippiness and flower power mentally is ripe through-out the film resulting in not only raised eyebrows but belly laughs.
Lets’ not forget Otis Day and the Knights performing “Shout” at the now infamous toga party, which is a gut busting and rollicking highlight, and of course the side splitting food fight in the Faber cafeteria is not to be missed. Animal House is indeed one timeless comedy classic. Even if your exposure has been only on cable TV, you owe yourself a favor to catch it unrated and uncut on dvd or blu ray. It may seem a bit dated today in some areas but it’s a micro-cosm of the freeness that National Lampoon, Landis, Ramis and Hollywood had back then. A college comedy that embraces the crassness with coarse and rudimentary slices of academic life and those disparities, shown under a microscope by John Landis, are what really works about Animal House.
The film is a enduring gut blaster film with a laugh in just about every scene and frame. The antics of Delta House will forever be etched in your psyche (sneaking into a Dean’s office will never be as funny, especially with a horse) and you will end up asking why your college days weren’t so insane, obscene, sketchy, loud mouthed and clumsy. Or was it?