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YMMV / Animal House

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Dave Jennings: Cool Teacher and a liberating figure much needed in a stuffy environment or a bad, toxic influence without boundaries?
    • Given the constant, nightmarish and unchecked havok routinely caused by Delta House, the villain status of Dean Wormer can come off as questionable, at least until he goes out of his way to make sure the Deltas are sent to Vietnam after they have already been expelled. On the other hand, there is the point of view that an authority figure who tries to enforce the rules should abide by them, be above reproach and shouldn't abuse his power in the first place, no matter the cause. The Vietnam destination itself adds another layer of contention too, when the movie was made, the collective imaginary gets the implication that Vietnam is a Uriah Gambit, but during the time the movie is actually set, it had not become a hot, deadly theatre yet.
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  • And You Thought It Would Fail: The film was the ambitious foray of the National Lampoon magazine into silver-screen entertainment. Universal execs politely allowed the filmmakers to go wild in their own special way, quietly hoping Animal House wouldn't damage the company's checkbooks. Donald Sutherland famously chose several thousand dollars in payment over a percentage of the box-office gross, expecting the film to be a bomb and be quickly forgotten. However, Animal House's charmingly dark and hard-hitting observations on college life, as well as its undeniably quirky brand of vulgar humor, was so refreshing to moviegoers in the late 70s that the film recouped its $2 million budget 50 times over. Sutherland, as you might imagine, was not pleased, and it probably explains why he never appeared in any interviews or in Where Are They Now?: A Delta Alumni Update, a direct-to-DVD short which suggested the film had been a documentary and John Landis was catching up with some of the cast, played by their original actors.
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  • Awesome Music: Now waaaaiiiaaaiiit a minute... This cover of The Isley Brothers' "Shout" is freakin' awesome.
  • Crazy Awesome: Bluto and D-Day.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • Otter pretending to be the ex-boyfriend of a dead coed in order to get grief/sympathy sex from her roommate. Not only that, but when reading the news story presented to him by the roommate ("sophomore dies in kiln explosion"), he accompanies his look of feigned shock with "She was gonna make a pot for me."
      • Crosses the line twice more when it drops hints that the roommate is also using Otter for grief sex.
    • Pinto has a passed out girl lying in bed directly in front of him, and is considering doing something... unsavory to her while she's unconscious. Cue the most bizarrely-placed Good Angel, Bad Angel gag ever, played out exactly the way it would be in a Donald Duck cartoon.
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    • The 13 year old girl (you read that right) introducing her college-age boyfriend to her parents as "The boy who molested me last month. We HAVE to get married!" She just sounds so happy!
  • Designated Villain: The Delta fraternity constantly engages in disruptive behavior and outright acts of vandalism. Its members overall have dreadfully low GPA (which they intend to remedy through cheating). Considering all this, Dean Wormer is perfectly justified in disciplining the fraternity. Some have even gone so far as to call Wormer a Villainy-Free Villain. However, even in the early 1960s the following actions were at least ethically questionable:
    • Enlist one group of students to spy on another
    • Run a "disciplinary hearing" in which the spies try the spied-upon, and the latter have no reasonable chance to address the charges against them (some of which are absolutely false)
    • Justify all this with a "double-secret probation" based on a "little known codicil".
    • And, turn a blind eye to acts of hazing, cheating and actual physical assault that, even in the early 1960s, could and should have brought the same fate to the Omegas as to the Deltas.
  • Eight Deadly Words: The film unfortunately suffers from this. The fraternity we're supposed to be rooting for constantly engages in antics that makes Dean Wormer's need to discipline them perfectly justifed (and even one of the more moral members ends up screwing an underage girl), the other prominent fraternity takes part in cultlike hazing rituals and physical assault, and the dean gets downright sadistic in his attempts to expel the Delta fraternity. As such, it can be hard to find anyone to root for in the film.
  • Fair for Its Day: Neidermeyer screaming "Faggots!" over and over again during the finale tends to raise a lot of eyebrows when viewed by modern audiences. However, worth noting that in the 70s the word - while still generally used as an insult - had not quite risen to the level of hateful profanity that it occupies today (many gays at the time, in fact, actually used it as a self-identifier).
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: John Belushi partied even harder in real life than Bluto did here. Unlike in the movie, John Belushi actually died from it in 1982.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • The actor who played the kid who yelled "Thank you, God!" after a Playboy Bunny drops into his room is now a preacher.
    • In the original "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, it's stated that Bluto became a United States Senator. While John Belushi never did get into politics, the idea of a Saturday Night Live cast member becoming a politician is now a reality thanks to Al Franken, who was a writer and feature player for SNL during the first five years [and later from 1985 to 1995, making Franken the longest-running feature player who was never promoted to repertory cast member], which was the same time that John Belushi was a cast member.
    • Bluto's Rousing Speech includes the line "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" John Belushi would later feature in 1941, which was about Pearl Harbor.
  • Memetic Mutation: "Assume the position!" "Thank you sir, may I have another!"
    • The iconic image of John Belushi in the "COLLEGE" sweatshirt. If you went to college, you saw the poster on someone's wall. Guaranteed.
      • If you go to THE Ohio State University, it's on the wall of the President's office. Sending what message, it's not exactly clear.
    • Toga parties exist because of this movie.
      "TOGA! TOGA!"
    • "You're all worthless and weak! Now drop and give me twenty!"
      • Heck, you could say that about the entire Neidermeyer character. He's appeared in two Twisted Sister videos, was mentioned in Twilight Zone: The Movie, and has a trope named after him. Specifically...
    • "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."
    • The concept of "double secret probation".
    • "Zero. Point. Zero."
    • The image of Kevin Bacon screaming "ALL IS WELL" during the parade riot has turned into a popular GIF on social media.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Through most of the first and second acts of the movie, the Omegas have been sneaky, snotty and slimy, as well as physically sadistic (see the first Memetic Mutation) - though, as shown in the stable scene, only Neidermeyer takes the latter Up to Eleven. The rest don't cross the line into pure evil until the infamous Rainbow Motel incident. Granted Greg had an excuse, but the rest are just, as Otter says, acting like "Hitler Youth". By the end of the movie Neidermeyer is so far gone he's willing to respond to a seltzer bottle with rifle fire. This is even worse than it first appears, considering how many people are running around, and how easy it would have been to kill one of them no matter how intently he aimed at Flounder. At point-blank range, granted, Flounder would be hard to miss, but size notwithstanding he's not a Bulletproof Human Shield against .30-06 ammo from an M-1903 Springfield rifle.note 
    • Dean Wormer gloating about how he's notified the Deltas' local draft boards about their expulsion. As pointed out above under Designated Villain, he's completely justified in wanting the Deltas off his campus, but this makes it clear that he doesn't just want them off his campus, he wants them dead or at least assigned to a harsh, dangerous duty, for once.
  • Narm Charm: Many of Bluto's lines are delivered by John Belushi yelling directly into the camera. By all accounts this should seem amateurish, but somehow it works.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Stephen Bishop as the performer of "I Gave My Love a Cherry".
  • Periphery Demographic: The film was originally made for grown up Baby Boomers who were part of the youth counterculture of The '60s (the story is set in 1962, just a few years before all of that happened). Lo and behold, the film's biggest fans turned out to be high school and college students, while many of the adults it was marketed at were turned off by its raunchiness.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Kevin Bacon in his film debut as the snotty frat dude that gets paddled to the ass. "THANK YOU SIR! MAY I HAVE ANOTHER?"
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: This film was to Comedy what Jaws and A New Hope were to Blockbusters. So many of its tropes (The idiotic but lovable protagonists, the strict authoritarian villains, the final scene where the slobs beat the snobs) have been used so many times it's impossible to see it the way audiences in 1978 saw it. Even worse is that its copiers haven't managed to be anywhere near as witty or talented, leading Animal House to be unfairly lumped in with its unoriginal, unfunny counterparts. Cracked's "5 Works of Art So Good, They Ruined Their Whole Genre" calls Animal House a tough act to follow in college comedy.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Dean Wormer's point of view is understandable — no sane college administration would want the Deltas around, and the rest of the student body might well have been good and tired of their endless pranks, hell-raising and rule-breaking. The Deltas may have been Affably Evil, but evil they were nonetheless — a lot of the stunts they pulled would get people who tried them in Real Life tossed straight into jail. That Wormer goes overboard, and goes out of his way to target the Deltas when his favored Omegas aren't much better, ultimately justifies him being the villain.
  • Values Dissonance
    • The Good Angel, Bad Angel scene where Pinto wonders whether he should have sex with the unconscious, teenaged Clorette has become extremely cringeworthy since rape, both among teenagers and in colleges, is an even bigger concern. Then again, some viewers think the cultural attitudes toward rape in college campuses makes the joke funnier, as it Crosses the Line Twice.
    • Jennings' affair with Katy is not quite as cringeworthy, but falls under the same category.
    • The scene in which Otter, Boon, Flounder, and Pinto visit a roadhouse bar which turns out to have an exclusively black clientele and, as a result, immediately fear for their lives, is also cringeworthy for some viewers today. It doesn't help that several tall Scary Black Man stereotypes proceed to verbally intimidate the Deltas by "asking" to dance with their dates. This was also during the early sixties when segregation was still around.
      • Landis was so worried that the scene might be racist that he showed to Richard Pryor. Not only did Pryor find it hilarious, he found it ridiculous that it might be offensive.
    • The "Thank you sir, may I have another?" scene, now that many universities are cracking down on hazing due to several deaths.
    • Neidermeyer repeatedly calling his own men "faggots" during the finale comes across a little harsher now than it did in 1978.
    • A (comparatively) small wince for anyone who works in higher education comes when the Dean discusses the Delta disciplinary files with Greg. Today, that runs afoul of a little thing called FERPA — Wormer would be literally breaking federal law.
    • A character as moral and sensitive as Hoover would never decorate their bedroom with a Confederate flag in The New '10s.
  • "Weird Al" Effect: The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue which everyone has mimicked/spoofed was actually a parody of the epilogue of American Graffiti, made just five years earlier.


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