Movie Name: National Lampoon’s Animal House
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release Date(s): July 28, 1978
MPAA Rating: R
It is 1962 and the Delta Tau Chi house is a mess. They might throw the best parties, but their grades are horrible and their pledge class is made up of castoffs from other more popular fraternities like Omega Theta Pi. When Dean Vernon Wormer (John Vernon) decides to target the fraternity for suspension, there is one thing the Delts can do…Party even harder!
Directed by John Landis, National Lampoon’s first venture into film was Animal House and it was a whopping success. The movie is kind of an early gross-out film that predates 1982’s Porky’s which has a similar feel (but is much cruder). Written by Douglas Kenny, Chris Miller, and Harold Ramis, the movie was originally suppose to be a high school style comedy. With fears of censorship, a college atmosphere was decided and Chris Miller’s experiences at his fraternity in Dartmouth became the basis for the script.
The staying power of Animal House is mostly due to a clever script full of memorable lines. Be it the toga party or the dead horse in the office, people generally remember Animal House. It is because of this that Animal House often goes down as one of the funniest movies ever made.
Animal House wouldn’t have succeeded without its stellar cast. John Belushi (Bluto) of course owns the picture and steal every scene he is in. Scenes like the zit in the cafeteria were large improvised and Belushi was given a lot of free reign. Belushi may make the movie but other members like Flounder (Stephen Furst), Otter (Tim Matheson), Boon (Peter Riegert), and the psychotic D-Day (Bruce McGill) do a great job rounding out the Delts while Gregory Marmalard (James Daughton), Neidermeyer (Mark Metcalf), and newcomer Kevin Bacon as Chip Diller make good memorable villains as the Omega Theta Pi goons along with Dean Wormer. Neidermeyer even gets a mention in John Landis’ segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie when soldiers are talking about his death.
Animal House does have some parts I feel weaken a smarter script. Animal House also goes to the extreme with its ending, which in all real senses, could have killed people if something like the Delts’ plan had been enacted at an actual parade. The “kidnapping” of the marching band also isn’t very realistic in a plot that while extreme could relatively happen. It almost is as if a different ending is tacked on to a college movie…they just don’t seem to match up.
Regardless, National Lampoon’s Animal House is a classic and like many classics, should be seen just to understand movies that followed its lead. It is constantly referenced in popular culture and has endured well in a world of extreme comedies. There is a lot of bonus material that generally can be found about Animal House (on DVDs, Blu-Rays and such) including a fun update on what the classmates are up to since the movie ended. Toga! Toga! Toga!