Okay…here goes…Porky’s, Revenge of the Nerds, Police Academy (and sequels), American Pie (and sequels), Stripes, Caddyshack, Road Trip, Old School, Superbad, The Hangover, Weird Science, Bad Neighbours, Van Wilder, 22 Jump Street, Harold & Kumar, The Girl Next Door, Knocked Up and The Inbetweeners…and that’s just naming the good ones.
All of them, in some way owe their very existence to National Lampoon’s Animal House. One of the most influential movies ever made. Frat House movies, sex comedies, high school party films, mainstream gross-out movies, bromances and stoner comedies can all trace their DNA back to the wretched hive of scum and hedonism that is Delta House.
The plot, though largely irrelevant, follows the attempts of the uptight college dean Vernon Wormer to rid his campus of Delta House, and the perpetual shame they bring to his fine world of academia. To aid him in achieving his goal, he recruits the young gents of Omega House – essentially a breeding ground for proto fascist Republican knuckleheads – to “kick these punks off campus, permanently.”
The Omega boys are all well-bred, well-fed, privileged society kids. Compare them to the grubby, beer swilling, sex crazed loons at Delta, and it is clear where the politics of this film lie. Even though it is played for raucous laughs, this is one of the great anti-establishment films. Animal House is pure, joyous anarchy. Food fights, toga parties, drinking beer, getting laid and rebelling against the man. It’s the college dream that no real college experience can ever live up to.
At the heart of all this mayhem is John “Bluto” Blutarsky, played with glorious wild abandon by John Belushi. So iconic is his performance, it still echoes in pop culture today. Whether it is the famous poster of him in his “College” sweater, or the film characters that we still see created in his image. Alan from The Hangover anyone?
Without a doubt, there are some issues that can’t be overlooked. There are a few scenes that firmly root the film in the era before political correctness. It is also a bit all over the place, as if the chaos unfolding on screen spilled behind the camera.
However, the good far outweighs the bad, and after 38 years, Animal House remains a vital and hilarious piece of American cinema.
This review first appeared on Entertainment Focus