troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Film: Back to School

Thornton Melon's got it good: he has an extremely successful line of "Tall & Fat" men's clothing stores that he built up from a small New York clothier shop, and a beloved son who's off making grades, making friends and earning victories for his diving team at college. Thornton's also married to a shrewish, unfaithful wife who- *Whirrp!* wait, nevermind that last part.

Newly separated from his shrewish, unfaithful wife, Thornton decides to head off to the university to visit his son, Jason. Once he gets there, Jason has to spill the beans on how college life is working out: he lied about the grades, the friends and the diving team and he's about to drop out. Thornton can't quite convince him not to, seeing how he never went to school and things turned out fine.

With that, Thornton decides -what the hell- he's enrolling too! He gets in good with the Dean by addressing all of his concerns with a big, fat donation, and before long becomes the #1 party animal on campus. Just a few things stand to ruin Thornton's fun, though: a stuffy economics professor who doesn't appreciate Thornton buying his way through school, and a son who's beginning to develop the same gripe. Fortunately, Thornton also falls for a beautiful and very intelligent Poetry professor who sees that he can excel in his studies if he makes a real effort at it, but will he?

While perhaps not as well-known as Caddyshack, Back to School is one of Rodney Dangerfield's funniest films and is definitely worth checking out for any fan of 80's comedy or the man himself.


This film includes examples of:

  • Artistic License - Economics: Thornton shows that his econ teacher might understand the theory behind economics better than he does, but he knows next to nothing about how to actually run a business.
    • Artistic license comes into play in the professor's structuring of the econ class as well. Generally entry-level economics classes tend to treat econ as a pure social science and don't work towards the practical implications for business so cleanly as portrayed in this film.
  • Back to School: Dur-hey.
  • Badass: Lou. He beat up the entire football team after crushing a metal napkin holder with his bare hands.
  • Blatant Lies: "Is the work you turned in your own?" "Dean Martin, I can't lie to ya... beat Yes it is."
    • Special mention to the scene as described in Fanservice Extra below.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Billy Zabka's at it again, this time he's playing a Jerk Jock named Chas.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Nothing is really made of it, but the flashback at the beginning reveals that Thornton's given surname was Meloni, and he changed it somewhere along the way.
  • The Cameo: Kurt Vonnegut appears as himself to write Thornton's essay on Kurt Vonnegut. It gets Thornton an F.
  • The Cast Showoff: Danny Elfman's band Oingo Boingo shows up at Thornton's kickass dorm party.
  • Cover Version: "Twist and Shout" plays in the film, and it's sung by someone other than The Beatles (while they didn't create the song, their rendition was arguably the most famous).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Watching Dangerfield and Downey on the same screen is like watching Master and Protege.
  • Dumb Is Good: The film has a strong Anti-Intellectual bend, arguing that experience trumps brilliance (which is what real Anti-Intellectualism is). Thornton is a lovable slob who is successful because he's worked hard and had real-world experience. His opponent is a petty, overly-intellectual educator who teaches how to run a business but has never run one himself. This can be seen in Kurt Vonnegut's paper about Kurt Vonnegut receiving an F. Although Thorton's whole motivation for returning to school is to prevent his son from dropping out, it's more about not giving up than receiving an education.
    • "Listen, Jason: it doesn't matter how successful a man is, without an education, he's nothin'!" While the movie does poke a lot of fun at "ivory tower" elitism, it's worth noting that Thorn only passes (barely, at that) because he finally knuckled down and started taking his education seriously.
  • Fanservice Extra:
    • When Rodney accidentally walks in on actress Leslie Huntly in the middle of her Shower Scene. Dangerfield and "Coed #1" have a brief Shower of Awkward played purely for Fanservice.
      Thornton: Take it easy, honey! I didn't see a thing!" (throws open shower curtain and stares bug-eyed at her) You're perfect!
    • There's also Bubbles, which Thornton says is the only thing missing from the hot tub.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky:
    Phillip: What did he want?
    Diane: Oh! What do ALL men want?
    Phillip: He wants you to dress up as Wonder Woman, tie him up with a golden lariat and force him to tell the truth?
    • Thornton: Here's you and Giorgio in the guest room. A little classy, isn't it? Here's you and Giorgio in the rumpus room. Another classy one, huh? Ooh, this one, I can't figure out. There's you, there's Giorgio... What's with the midget over here?
  • Precision F-Strike: Thornton tells Kurt Vonnegut to go fuck himself.
  • Punny Name: The Dean's last name is Martin; this cracks Thornton up to no end.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: See the entry in Your Costume Needs Work.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Thornton gets into school by buying the campus a new building, and his attitude towards his academic workload is to just hire someone else to do it.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Jason doesn't subscribe to his dad's approach to higher learning, and becomes very upset when Thorn gets his underlings to do his homework, too.
  • Self-Deprecation: Mostly averted, believe it or not. Rodney Dangerfield actually avoids using his signature shtick throughout the movie.
    • There is one notable instance of it, though:
      Thorn: "The shape I'm in, you could donate my body to science fiction."
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: History teacher Prof. Turguson. Watch as he informs his students on the reason for ending The Vietnam War. Then gets Thornton to state what he thinks is the reason the US pulled out from The Korean War.
  • Shout-Out: The opening montage shows Rodney playing golf in his Al Czervik getup.
  • Soap Box Sadie: Subverted by Derek. The few times he starts ranting on social issues it becomes clear a few words in that he's just bullshitting for laughs.
  • Stealth Pun: "Why don't you call me some time when you have no class?"
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Jason is quite a few inches shorter than his squeeze, Valerie.
  • Uncle Pennybags: Thorn is a fine example. Even though he's buying his way through school, he's really cool about it. At one point, he gives a campus officer a couple of thousand bucks to help put his kids through school; when the officer tells him he doesn't have children, Thorn shrugs and gives him more money to get himself some kids.
  • Villains Never Lie: Chas tells Jason that his dad bribed the coach to get him on the diving team, and Jason believes it immediately. To Jason, it sounds enough like something his dad might do, but you'd think hearing it from the one guy in school that you know hates your guts might send up a red flag or two.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: The drunk student.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: Thornton commissions Kurt Vonnegut to write an interpretation of Slaughterhouse-Five for a literature class. When Dangerfield turns it in, the professor gives it an F, saying "I don't know who wrote this essay, but he obviously doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut."


Avenging ForceFilms of the 1980sBig Trouble in Little China
Babettes FeastCreator/Orion PicturesBattle Beyond the Stars

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
17078
6