Thursday, 5 November 2015

Review: Animal House

I can't believe I haven't seen…

Animal House Poster

Animal House (1978)
Cert: 15 / 108 mins / Dir. John Landis / Trailer
WoB Rating: 3/7

…and here on the right you can see National Lampoon's Animal House, which is what people used to laugh at in the old days before comedy movies were invented*1. Over-acted, under-written and directed with the surgical precision of an elephant falling down a lift-shaft, this is the quintessential film to watch while you're drunk, as a teenager, in 1978. Any missing parts of that combination will result in disappointment, the scale of which is directly commensurate with the absent factors.

This is by no means an 'awful' film (even though it has plenty of awful things about it), but it really hasn't aged well. At all. Both the scripted and visual gags are broad to the point of completely vague, with long lingering pauses acting as a substitute for punchlines, and I can't quite work out if the overall clunkiness is down to a) the film being a 1978 frat-com when I'm used to the more boisterous, dynamic ones from the 90s and 00s, b) this being a National Lampoon's movie ie SNL writ-large, or c) the film being directed by John 'Burke and Hare' Landis. As above, I think all three play a contributing factor.

The film's not completely without merit, of course, but the few moments where it succeeds are through a certain naive charm rather than any comedic muscle. But the fact that I didn't laugh doesn't change its undeniable influence over the comedy genre for the last four decades.

The thought occurred to me that Animal House could work much better for 2015 if it was remade. This was immediately followed by the thought that in the intervening years, it essentially has been remade, countless times; sometimes better, but often far, far worse. This is one of those films whose lasting appeal is little more than a warm, glowing nostalgia rather than the work itself. A nostalgia you just don't have if you wait 37 years before you watch it.

Animal House feels like a drunk painstakingly setting up a joke then repeatedly forgetting the punchline. Actually no, it pretty much is that…

And in the upstairs-pillow-fight scene, how are silhouettes of the girls being cast at the window if the curtains are open when Blutarsky climbs the ladder? Write your fucking film, you morons. Although the fact that no-one spots a fully illuminated face less than a foot away from the window suggests that perhaps the screenplay isn't supposed to be taken literally…

Have you really never seen this before?
Somehow, never.

So are you glad you've finally have?
Well, it's on the list of 'film arguments to have in the pub' now…

And would you recommend it, now?
Only if you're drunk.
And a teenager.
In 1978.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Oh, that there was…

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Animal House stars Karen Allen, who played Marion Ravenwood in those Indy films opposite Harrison 'Solo' Ford.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 1979's The Life Of Brian was the first recorded Comedy Film™, of course, and many more were created over the next five years and artificially aged and copyrighted to much earlier dates in an attempt to mask Hollywood's embarrassment.
It's a lie which was sold so successfully that it's now largely accepted as truth, albeit erroneously.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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