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Back to School (1986)

PG-13  |   |  Comedy, Romance, Sport  |  13 June 1986 (USA)
6.5
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 19,484 users  
Reviews: 76 user | 22 critic

To help his discouraged son get through college, a funloving and obnoxious rich businessman decides to enter the school as a student himself.

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Title: Back to School (1986)

Back to School (1986) on IMDb 6.5/10

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Lou
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Severn Darden ...
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Kurt Vonnegut Jr. ...
Himself
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Storyline

Millionaire businessman Thornton Melon is upset when his son Jason announces that he is not sure about going to college. Thornton insists that college is the best thing he never had for himself, and to prove his point, he agrees to enroll in school along with his son. Thornton is a big hit on campus: always throwing the biggest parties, knowing all the right people, but is this the way to pass college? Written by Murray Chapman <muzzle@cs.uq.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Registration starts Friday, June 13, at theaters everywhere.

Genres:

Comedy | Romance | Sport

Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

13 June 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mach's nochmal, Dad  »

Box Office

Budget:

$11,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$91,258,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(prologue)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Rodney Dangerfield always looked out for younger comedic talents. He was a big proponent for Sam Kinison's part as a crazed professor in Back to School. They also considered Jim Carrey, but he was rejected as too young. Later when producer Chuck Russell got the chance to direct The Mask (1994), he was finally able to use Jim Carrey, transforming the Mask from a "very dark horror film" to a comedy. See more »

Goofs

During the final scene, Thornton Melon gives a speech as a freshman for the graduating seniors. Even though he never attended college before, he is wearing not only graduation robes, but doctoral robes. As part of his generous donation, however, he may have been bestowed an honorary degree. See more »

Quotes

Thornton Melon: Please, try to understand. I don't have the background for this. I mean, the high school I went to, they asked a kid to prove the law of gravity, he threw the teacher out the window!
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the opening credits, there is a still of Rodney Dangerfield from Caddyshack (1980). See more »

Connections

Featured in Legends: Rodney Dangerfield (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Back To School
Written by Richard Wolf & Mark Leonard
Produced by Richard Wolf & Mark Leonard
Performed by Jude Cole
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User Reviews

 
Dangerfield University Lampoon Still Contains Truth
14 October 2005 | by (Malden, MA) – See all my reviews

"Back to School" is a cherished member of my VHS collection not only because of the late but inimitably immortal Rodney Dangerfield and his outrageous persona, but also because of its laceration of a favorite satiric target - college. "Back to School" came out in 1986 -a year after I graduated from Tufts University- and it nearly perfectly encapsulates (if slightly exaggerates) and skewers college life during the heedlessly hedonistic and materialistic '80s.

At first Thorton Melon (Rodney's character in the movie) seemingly has two altruistic motives for applying to college: 1) personal improvement, and 2) desire to help his only son Jason (Kevin Gordon) succeed, especially when Thorton discovers that Jason is not exactly the epitome of the BMOC. However, once he essentially bribes his way into college by convincing the venally avaricious Dean Martin (he, he) to let him endow the Thorton Melon school of Business Administration, high school dropout Thorton apparently has it made. One might argue that this scenario is implausible, but given universities' rapacity for more cash, I could believe they would bend the rules to let wealthy Thorton in.

Thorton then proceeds to embody every college student's wet dream - to be the perpetually fun-loving slacker who has the dough to show himself and others an endless good time and buy himself out of any trouble! Again, philistine critics may argue that no college would tolerate Thorton's party-boy person; wouldn't the cops arrest him for the voyeuristic dormitory scene or the out-of-control party scene, instead of reprimanding him or bringing Lite beer (remember Rodney was one of the shills for Lite)? However, "Back to School"'s college satire necessarily must employ a little hyperbole to get its point across.

For example, in the classroom scenes with the history professor (the late Sam Kinison) and the business instructor (Paxton Whitehead), the movie does also go a little over the top but also tweaks college for its well-meaning but unrealistically theoretical approach (i.e. head up its a$$ approach) to working and life. Yeah, especially Thornton's take on the corruption and shady dealing it would really take to start a business really do have a germ of truth. Also, the way Thorton "prepares" for his classes -his secretary takes notes for him in class and his research team does his reports and homework- is off the wall but also possesses scientific veracity. I'm sure at Tufts and other colleges, some students never went to class and got others to take notes and do reports. However, (and this is one of my favorite scenes from the movie) only Thornton would heft a report created by his research team and crack, "I dunno; it feels like a "C"; add some more multicolored graphs"." And of course only Thornton would hire Kurt Vonnegut to appraise his own work.

Nevertheless, "Back to School" lets Rodney collide with harsh, poignant reality without sacrificing laughs. Thornton is failing his classes; even the professor most sympathetic to him (Sally Kellerman) suspects him of plagiarism. His son Jason angrily refuses to let Thornton's think tank do his astronomy work. Thornton will be expelled unless he passes a multi-part oral exam (!) by all of his course professors. After a pep talk from Thornton's chauffeur (Burt Young) about Thornton's "School of Hard Knocks" life, Jason realizes that just as his dad came to school to show him how to loosen up and enjoy life, he must show his dad how to handle college responsibilities. And isn't that what college is all about - balancing responsibility and fun to have a meaningfully productive experience?

Therefore, "Back to School" is more than just an "Animal House" retread. It uses Rodney's older, wry perspective (and those priceless one-liners) to point out both the absurdity and importance of college life. Heck, I would even recommend high school seniors applying to colleges to give "Back to School" a look if only to show them (with a grain of salt, of course) that while college is a worthwhile experience, it's also a unique, unfamiliar world all its own.

P.S.: I would advise Cedric the Entertainer to abandon his 2006 remake of "Back to School" as an ill-advised travesty.


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