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Monday, April 6, 2015

The Drive-in is open! This is the last classic review of the season. Go to the drive-in this weekend and enjoy yourself!

John Landis and the folks that brought you Animal House also wound up creating some of the most influential comedies of the 1980s. The credits for Animal House include names like the late Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters, Caddyshack and Stripes), the late Douglas Kenney (Caddyshack), and Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters). With a pedigree like that, any movie is bound to be a success. But Animal House almost didn’t happen and the story behind the movie is almost more entertaining than the movie itself.

When John Belushi and the cast first arrived to start filming, they somehow wound up at a real frat party with real frat guys who really liked to drink. Fights broke out and the cast almost found itself in jail. Belushi’s behavior was no better when he was away from the influence of unruly frat boys as he took it upon himself to live up to his character Bluto’s reputation for decadence. In the end, the movie was made and (after a little hesitation from the suits at the studio) it was released and went on to become a classic.

What makes Animal House such a great movie? I mean, how hard could it be to make a comedy about a bunch of drunk college guys who destroy everything they come into contact with? As it turns out, and judging by the long list of knock-off movies that failed miserably, it is not nearly as easy as it sounds to make a movie like Animal House.

One of the things that helped Animal House succeed was that it was written by some of the most creative and decadent minds in comedy history. Ramis and Kenney were renowned for their ability to turn a dirty joke into an iconic moment and they showed off that ability again in Caddyshack. Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow have a long way to go before they become even a fraction of the comedy geniuses that Ramis and Kenney were.

If you watch Animal House, you will also notice that the timing of the jokes is immaculate. Even the dreary process of cutting from one scene to the next is done so perfectly in Animal House that it makes the joke. A perfect example of this is the use of timing and editing in the horse scene in Dean Wormer’s office when Wormer is talking to Mayor DePasto about the homecoming parade. Instead of laughing hysterically at the visual joke, try and watch how the joke is put together. It is genius and that sort of genius shows up throughout the movie.

As with any iconic movie, it is easy to take the best comedy bits for granted because they are such a part of our pop culture these days. But when those bits were fresh, they literally had people rolling in the aisles. We tend to ruin the effects of movies when we quote them constantly and parody them on television, but that is also the sincerest form of flattery. I mean, who knew that the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? It seems so obvious to us now, but it was brilliant when it was first written.

When I was in college several hundred years ago, I remember Otis Day and the Animal House band coming to play Springfest. It was a frat boy’s dream, but I was just marveling at how this guy who could barely walk was making a living off of 3 minutes of camera time he got in a 1978 movie. A legendary movie is one that can make anyone associated with it famous, and that is exactly what Animal House still does.

Animal House is one of those movies that is mandatory viewing for any male American over the age of 18. Even if you never went to college, you will still laugh at the jokes and get all of the humor because the jokes were not meant to be stuck in a college setting. These are jokes that can work in any setting and I am willing to bet that more than one of you has been caught in a food fight in a cafeteria that was not necessarily on a college campus. That, my friends, is the power of good movie making.

RATING: Four out of five stars.

+George N Root III  is a drive-in fanatic who cannot wait to get out to the drive-in and start taking in movies under the stars. Do yourself a favor and experience the drive-in at least once this season and keep yourself open to the possibility of making it a regular weekend thing.

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