School comedy is a tougher genre to work in than it may appear – short of the great fun that was “Road Trip”, most of the efforts in the post-American Pie times such as “Van Wilder” and “The New Guy” are just utter pieces of crap.
‘Road’ Director Todd Phillips returns to the genre with this very Animal House-esque dumb comedy and once again shows he knows how to make the genre work. Sure the characters and sequences aren’t as likeable or memorable, but Phillips keeps the pace flowing fast and the gags flying so that even when it does get bogged down by a sequence which doesn’t work, it nevertheless manages to move onto something else almost right away.
The first half especially is full of some great stuff and whilst the movie does fall back on that oldest of college comedy cliches (angry dean will shut down frat unless the members pass certain tests), it still manages to notch in a lot of laughs on its belt. Luke Wilson is an affable lead who plays it a little too straight and bland but that allows Vaughn to give his best turn in years as the almost hyperactive can-do man of the trio, whilst Ferrell hangs it all out as the butt of many a joke.
Look for fun appearances from the likes of Jeremy Piven, Seann William Scott and 24’s Elisha Cuthbert in supporting turns. Their performances aren’t memorable but they’re perfectly suited for the material. It misfires too though. The Luke romance subplot is utterly trite and forgettable, a few of the gags are a little on the crass side, the plot is just non-existent, and potential for mismatched comedy between the kids and the ‘older guys’ is for the most part frittered away.
There’s energy, rhythm and pace here alright but the gags whilst tear-inducing at times are just not that remarkable. It serves up the type of comedy that the particular audience of this wants, but never goes out of its way to become something more. Great fun but certainly no genre-turner like “American Pie” or “Road Trip”.