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Film / Old School

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Old School is a 2003 American comedy directed by Todd Phillips and starring Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn. It tells the story of three guys facing a midlife crisis who return to their alma mater and start a new fraternity, soon running afoul of the dean.

Previews: Trailer.

This film contains examples of:

  • Above the Influence: Beanie has the opportunity to have sex with another woman, but refuses because he's married, even though in all likelihood he could get away with it.
  • Abusive Parents: Weensie's mom. He told the fraternity that his mom will kill him if she finds out he's been kicked out of college.
    Weensie: See, I'm the first one to go to college in my family and when I left she said, "Weensie, if you screw this up, I'll kill you." She showed me the knife.
  • The Alcoholic: Frank is a massive alcoholic, to the point of earning the nickname "Frank the Tank". His wife has tried to force him to stop, much to his chagrin.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Frank is prone to this, hence why his wife wants him to stop drinking.
  • Awesomeness-Induced Amnesia: Frank (who has never been shown to be of anything more than average intelligence) is in a formal debate with famous news pundit James Carville. After Frank delivers his argument, Carville outright says that he has no response. When asked how Frank did that, he says he has no idea and that he blacked out.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Beanie tries to talk Frank out of getting married, despite being married himself. His instincts are actually pretty spot-on in this regard, as Frank's alcoholism ruins their marriage in record time.
    "*cough*don't do it!*cough*"
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Garry the oral sex instructor.
  • Bowdlerise: Found in the trailer.
    • Mitch says "damn magic show" rather than "goddamn magic show."
    • Blue says "ring the bell, you pansy" instead of "ring the fucking bell, you pansy".
  • Brick Joke: In the post-credit scene, Mitch's ex-girlfriend, Heidi, meets Frank at the supermarket and they have a friendly conversation. Having heard about Frank's divorce (and consoling him), she invites him to "a little get-together" the next evening—which, considering what happened at the beginning of the film, is likely an orgy.
    Frank: Awesome! YES!!! *shadow-boxes and kicks at some stuff in the aisle* I am back! *spikes a box of Pop Tarts into his cart*
  • The Cameo: Snoop Dogg performs at the Mitch-a-Palooza party.
  • Comically Missing the Point: During Frank's talk with his marriage counselor about how he really feels being married, he got offtrack by talking about what kind of panties a waitress was wearing.
    Frank: I'm sorry I don't know where I was going with that. But I guess what I'm trying to say is that now that I'm married, I'm definitely feeling a little freaked out about the fact that I'm gonna have sex with just one person [pause, motions towards his wife], for the rest of my life!
  • Cool Old Guy: Blue, an elderly Navy veteran who joins the frat. He dies just before a KY Jelly wrestling match with two topless women.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Mitch should have told Nicole the truth about Mark sooner.
    Cook: Love is a motherfucker.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: Beanie frequently brings one of his sons with him, and demands that the other guys give him a heads-up if they're going to swear, so that he can tell his son to cover his ears or do so himself.
  • Dining in the Buff: Played with. A naked Frank gets into his wife's SUV and he asks if KFC is still open.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Mark (the cheating boyfriend of the main love interest) is driving over a bridge, he swerves to avoid another car, breaks through the side of the bridge, flips the car over, and lands right on top of Pritchard (the villainous dean of the college) who is fishing in the lake below. There's a small chance Mark might have survived that but then the car explodes.
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Jack Daniels: Frank is quite meek at first, even planning a quiet, sensible weekend with his wife. It's revealed that he has a wild drunk side known as "Frank The Tank." It ends up resulting in his divorce.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • Pritchard used to be teased by Mitch and his friends in high school, so he gets Mitch's new house rezoned for campus use only. He's also a dick to even the college students. He lampshades that it's a free country and he can do whatever he likes.
    • Pritchard himself is later on the receiving end of this trope when it turns out that Megan Huang secretly recorded their conversation about him not fulfilling his promise of getting her into Columbia Law School after she revoked the fraternity's charter, which Mitch and Frank later expose to Harrison, albeit after a chase between Pritchard and the latter.
  • Drugs Causing Slow-Motion: Everything becomes slow-motion when Frank shoots himself in the neck with a tranquilizer dart.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While Pritchard's assistant Michael is on board with his scheme to get the fraternity out of Harrison, he's genuinely concerned with Frank catching fire on his Harrison Cougar mascot outfit and even his own boss admitting on tape that he didn't fulfill his end of the bargain of getting Megan Huang into Columbia Law School.
  • Fan Disservice: Will Ferrell streaking is treated as an in-universe example.
  • Fanservice: The two women soaked from head to toe in K-Y jelly about to wrestle with Blue in their see-through t-shirts and panties.
  • Fratbro: The guys in their past, but Frank the Tank in particular was most prone to Wacky Fratboy Hijinx.
  • Groin Attack: As part of their initiation, the frat pledges have to hold cinder blocks that are tied to their penises, carry them over to the edge of a roof and then hurl them over the edge, trusting that the ropes are long enough that this won't result in ripping their genitals off. Unfortunately for poor Weensie, his chosen position just so happens to align with a manhole cover. Cue the block getting past the cover and continuing on, dragging Weensie with it.
  • Henpecked Husband: Frank's wife has forced him to give up drinking. Or tried to, anyway.
  • Home-Early Surprise: Double Subversion. In the opening scene, Mitch comes home early from a business trip to surprise his wife, only to hear sex noises coming from the bedroom. Fortunately, it was coming from the TV; she was watching porn. Mitch is relieved (and a little turned on), but then the other participitants in her planned orgy enter the room.
  • I Lied: Dean Pritchard bribes the School Student President Megan Huang to revoke the fraternity (since she was the one who approved it) with admission to Columbia Law School, a promise he has no intention (or ability) to fulfill. When she confronts him on it, he tells her it's a free country and can do whatever he likes. Fortunately, she secretly recorded their conversation.
  • Jerkass:
    • Dean Pritchard harasses Mitch because he was bullied by Mitch and his friends in high school. While an understandable reason for Pritchard to give them grief, especially given the kind of bullying he was subjected to (locking him in a dumpster for extended periods), he simply can't let it go and goes to increasing lengths to sabotage them. He subverts the system by pressuring a student into revoking the so-called frat's charter by promising assistance with her Columbia Law application, while later gloating that he lied about his end of the deal, making him worse than the bullies his adversaries used to be.
    • Mark, who cheats on his fiancee Nicole with another girl and tells Mitch not to rat him out by invoking the guy code, then tries to turn Nicole against Mitch by lying that he saw Mitch hooking up with the girl.
    • The animal handler at Beanie's son's birthday, though this is mostly played for laughs.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: Frank plays around with a loaded tranquilizer gun and shoots the dart straight into his jugular.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Parodied. The first scene during the credits—which seems to exist just for this trope—has Mark swerving off a bridge in his car to avoid oncoming traffic. His car lands atop Pritchard, who was fishing in a boat in the river below. The car then explodes.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Mitch's house is designated specifically for social services and community housing, so they start a fraternity open to anyone as there's no rule that the frat has to be associated with the school. As Pritchard's assistant lampshades, they're very good at paperwork (Mitch is a lawyer and Beanie runs an electronics store, so they'd have to be).
    • After the frat completes the certification review, Dean Pritchard exploits the fact that the group never removed Blue's name from their membership list after his death to count him as a current member and mark him as having a score of zero for the tasks. This causes their average to drop from a passing 84% to a failing 58%.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Frank's penis can be seen briefly when he goes streaking.
  • Manchild: Frank, of course. And Beanie, who is still a party animal at heart, despite being married with a baby.
  • Not What It Looks Like: When Mitch is trying to convince Nicole that he's a good person (Mark had told her Mitch was harassing women at the birthday party), Darcie happens to show up and her being a high school student is rather awkward for Mitch to explain.
  • Off the Wagon: It takes only one beer to turn Frank back into "Frank the Tank." Granted, he drinks the entire beer in one shot through a beer bong, but his change in demeanor is instant.
    "It's so good when it hits the lips!"
  • Oh, Crap!: Mitch gets into a car accident and crushes Pritchard, causing the car to explode and kill them both.
    Dean Pritchard: Oh, shit.
  • Older Than They Look: Mitch is quite shocked to learn that his one-night stand at the party is the boss's daughter and in high school.
  • Pair the Spares: Divorced Frank and Mitch's nymphomaniac ex-girlfriend Heidi.
  • Plot-Inciting Infidelity: The film opens with Mitch coming home early from a business trip only to hear loud sex coming from his bedroom... but it's just a subversion; the sounds are coming from the TV, his girlfriend's watching porn. He initially thinks this is actually a turn-on and gets excited... until several naked people enter the room and her cheating becomes apparent.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Dean Pritchard, if this dialogue is anything to go by.
    Dean Pritchard: Listen, Chang—
    Megan: It's Huang.
    Dean Pritchard: Whatever! How's the tennis season going?
    • Also the cab driver who tells Mitch to stop being such a "faggot" over complaining about his seatbelt.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The fraternity, which includes several of the college students, married men, and one really old guy.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Frank toys around with a tranquilizer gun and shoots himself in the jugular.
  • Running Gag: Frank trying to get rid of his wedding present, in obvious ways.
    Frank: (after trying to give it to Beanie's son as a birthday gift) Damn it.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After finding out that it's in the bylaw that the only way to keep the fraternity is take a course of tests, Beanie decides he wants out of the fraternity. Though Mitch convinces him otherwise.
  • Serious Business: Much to Mitch's chagrin, everyone takes the frat very seriously, calling him "The Godfather" and giving him preferential treatment.
  • Spit Take: Mitch, when he finds out his boss's daughter Darcie is a high school graduate. Earlier, they were in bed. They haven't done anything, but it's clear that she wanted to (though she mouthed "sorry" to him for lying about her age while in her dad's office).
  • Streaking: After getting good and loaded, Frank decides to go for a run. Naked.
  • Tranquillizer Dart: Played for Laughs. Frank accidentally shoots himself in the neck with one.
  • Trust-Building Blunder: The frat initiation has the pledges toss cinderblocks off a ledge, which are securely tied to their penises, the rope length having been precisely calculated so that it won't be dangerous. This works out for all but Weensie, who happens to throw his onto a manhole cover and gets dragged along with the block when it falls through the hole.
  • Wacky Fratboy Hijinx: Naturally, this film includes them, including streaking and KY jelly wrestling.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Beanie calls Mitch out for cussing in front of his son without giving a heads-up (see Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears), because Mitch was frustrated at the moment and didn't really want to create a fraternity. Beanie says he and their friends were trying to help him after leaving his cheating ex-girlfriend, making Mitch feel guilty and reluctantly accepts.
      Beanie: Don't say sorry to me. You let down Frank. You let down me. Most importantly, you let down Max. And right about now I'm having a hard time trying to figure out why I take time out of my schedule to help you get over... Max, can you earmuff it for me? (Max covers his ears) That whore you dated.
    • Later on Mitch calls out Beanie for attempting to abandon the fraternity before the certification review despite his earlier talk about the importance of brotherhood.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Dean Pritchard tells a class that Frank accosted him and they were witnesses, though he himself instigated the fight because he had the tape of him admitting to Megan Huang that he can bribe whoever he wants.