Animal House Review

America is a strange and violent land full of teens who think they can drink and drink that barely has alcohol in it. No such comments are made on that in Animal House, a time where drinking was a side order of stirring degeneracy rather than something that could cause it. How the times have changed. John Landis directs this frat comedy with a grand understanding not just of what makes the frat party a place for wild partygoing antics but engages with the National Lampoon caricatures and the shtick they provided audiences for decades. These are the party boys and the snooty sororities that looked down on the fun attitudes of the time. But did they exist? Probably not.

That is the fun of Animal House. Its stereotypes of college boys and rich girls are so misplaced they provide the real, underlying comedy. A hardhat biker is one thing, but one that arrives to a house party by crashing his motorbike through the door and riding it up the stairs is the next level. It is going beyond and the risk provides a rewarding experience for Landis and his crew. They elevate themselves far beyond the usual coming-of-age feature by having no real stake in the genre. Characters on the cusp of adulthood do surprisingly little to set themselves up for their future and there is an endearing layer to that and the unlikely protagonists at the heart of this National Lampooning. John Belushi leads that charge with an expectedly memorable performance, but Stephen Furst and Tom Hulce provide some equally important roles.

While they may blur together, they do so with the justification of prodding the norms of the time. Anarchy does not quite reign as the halls of these college students are still adorned with the gross-out humour that aged so poorly, but beyond that is a nice variety of sight gags that feel akin to Airplane!, some witty dialogue that strikes up some interesting call-backs and foreshadowing scenes and a grand variety of takedowns on the tropes of the time. Kevin Bacon shows up for one or two brief moments, but his encapsulation of the upper-class frat boy with his bright sweater vests and shirts is just the right time to give audiences something to rally against.

Joyful acts of punk rebellion spilling onto the screen in engaging set pieces and wild antics of a strange bunch of bastards and outsiders. Animal House has a great many jokes that still hold up today, whether it is the destruction of slapstick or the witty lines that poke through from time to time with recurring brilliance. Belushi and company do well to get up in arms for a generation they were no longer part of, and the beauty of Animal House is that it establishes the anti-establishment necessities of knowing you don’t need to succeed in education to succeed in life. That is a reassuring message for those that need it, and it is carried out effectively and hilariously at times throughout the spotty brilliance of Animal House.

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