Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Although it required seeing more of Will Ferrell’s flabby butt than would be preferred to make its point, 2003’s Old School found relationship commentary amid its raunchiness.
In this laugh-out-loud riot, director / co-writer Todd Phillips argued that marriage, or any long-term commitment, shouldn’t force you to compromise your personality.
Of course, said lesson came as Ferrell’s better half caught him drunkenly streaking through town. Even if barely there, the scene has a subtext to it that marriage just might not be right for a guy like Frank. Old School knew that the crudeness of its jokes alone — unlike the awfulness of Tomcats — wouldn’t draw laughs.
Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson are a trio of thirtysomething friends who start their own fraternity on a local college campus. Vaughn downshifts from his over-the-top motor-mouth turns in Swingers and Made, while Wilson makes good use of the straight-man part. But this is Ferrell’s show — the start of the highlight reel supporting his decision to bail on a then-stagnant Saturday Night Live.
What makes Old School a real treat, like the Zeroes’ best comedies, is that it never sacrifices its characters’ charms for the crass jokes. Vaughn’s family man enjoys marriage even if he thinks he doesn’t. Wilson’s average guy seeks a woman who respects him for that. And maybe Ferrell is meant to be the Trans Am-driving, Pabst-drinking “Frank the Tank” for the rest of his life.
Old School’s mind resided in the gutter, but its heart occupied a high-enough place.