Genetically Superior

Anatomy of a College Party Movie by Tony
August 2, 2008, 1:18 pm
Filed under: Movie Reviews, Written by Tony | Tags: , , , ,

For eager freshmen, dreaming of their days of limitless debauchery, and alumni drawn back into glossy-eyed reminiscence of nights spent any way but asleep, there is a clear champion of the college party genre: National Lampoon’s Animal House. Its legacy in campus culture is forever emblazoned in “To-ga! To-ga!” chants, and is seen on every campus in T-shirts with “College” stamped across the front.

The tale of a houseful of Greek miscreants and their battle to be the best — at being the worst — is the essence of the college movie. Animal House’s formula has influenced films for decades, and hasn’t stopped short on the upcoming film, College (not to be confused with Raven Symone’s College Road Trip which sucked), which will be released August 29. Included in the trailer are obligatory “don’t remember” tattoos, pubescents rounding second base, and a heap of traditional fraternity hazing.

It’s all part of the standard curriculum here in College Movie Anatomy 101, where the golden equation is:

Babes + Beer + Scheming Frat Boys = The Ultimate College Party Movie

Exhibit A: National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)
Exhibit B: PCU (1994)
Exhibit C: National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (2002)

Behind every rambunctious big man on campus, there’s an equally stunning gotta-have-her hottie who shakes things up. For Van Wilder, chasing white hot Gwen (Tara Reid) is enough reason for Van (Ryan Reynolds) to end his 7-year playboy stunt and finally graduate college. In Animal House, it wasn’t just one girl, but many: the party-preying cougar who doubles as the dean’s loose-minded wife; the 16-year-old who snuck out of her bedroom to attend a party; and Otter’s (Tim Matheson) cute girl-next-door main squeeze. PCU falls a little short in the babe category by modern standards, but for the early ’90s it’s hard to deny the hot factor of Katy (Megan Ward) and her navel-hugging jean shorts.

Exceptional exception: Legally Blonde (2001) stars Reese Witherspoon—not exactly babe material — whose chase involves a sweet and charming guy throughout their stint at Harvard law school.


Droz (Jeremy Piven) serves up a bit of advice to a visiting pre-freshman in PCU: “Beer: It’s your best friend. Drink a lot of it.” And college party movies do — except in Hollywood, the kegs never run dry. As Bluto (John Belushi) from Animal House puts it: “Grab a brew, they don’t cost nothing!” The effervescent beverage is the prime catalyst for every blowout party. As for Van Wilder, wherever Van distributes red cups, the signature of beer sipping, a party blossoms.

Exceptional exception: In Real Genius (1985), Val Kilmer’s buddies spend their time building lasers instead of drinking. Predictably, this movie never hits a heady high.

Scheming Frat Boys
Opposing partying protagonists in college movies is the job of whiny, pretentious frat boys at the upper echelons of campus society. In Animal House, it’s the evil Omegas who team up with the dean to get hard-partying Delta kicked out. In PCU, it’s the evil Balls and Shaft fraternity that teams up with the school president to get the hard partiers in The Pit kicked out. And in Van Wilder, it’s the evil president of Delta Iota Kappa (that’s DIK for short) who teams up with the school board to get Van kicked out. It’s a storyline as predictable as their uniforms: blue blazers with red ties, of course!

Exceptional exception: In Road Trip (2000), the good guys’ only encounter with Greek life is a pleasant run-in with a black fraternity chapter with a good sense of humor.


1 Comment so far
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“exceptional exception” Tony? come on…

Comment by mIk3

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