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Back to School (1986) was a surprise hit for stand up comedian actor
Rodeny Dangerfield. After making a big impression with audiences with
his spot in the golf comedy Caddyshack and a lead role in Easy Money,
his star was slowly rising. But it was this film that cemented his spot
in American pop culture as a true icon of the 80's and a transition
Rodney stars as Thorton Melon (nee Meloni) a successful entrepreneur who had to drop out of school when he was younger to take care of the family business. Years later his son is in college but feel dissatisfied with life in general. After a series of comical events, Mr. Melon decides to visit his son's exclusive university to see how he's really doing. Along the way he decides to give book learning a try.
A very enjoyable film. Rodney Dangerfield made the transaction from a stand-up act to an actor. The director wisely let him improvise his dialog and work in some of his material into the movie. The cast features Sally Kellerman, Robert Downey Jr., Keith Gordon, Burt Young, Terry Farrell and guest star slots for Adrienne Barbeau and Ned Beatty.
Not a masterpiece by any means but an enjoyable film none the less. Recommended, especially on a slow Sunday afternoon.
Rodney Dangerfield made this movie with his hilarious one liners. I still find myself quoting many of these lines which he delivers beautifully throughout the movie. The more you watch it the funnier it gets, and I'll be watching it for a few more decades yet.
Without Rodney Dangerfield this movie would be in the bottom 100 for
sure. However with Rodney Dangerfield (in my opinion) it should be
considered for the top 75 comedies of all time.
Lines like "I like teachers. If you do something wrong they make you do it again" are what carry this movie. There's not a lot of them but when they do pop-up they're hilarious.
I do believe the director and producers made a mistake not taking Jim Carrey on for the role of the History Teacher because he was too young, because it wasn't a believable kind of movie any way. I must say though that the man who did play the History Teacher did a great job and seeing him teaching was one of the best parts of the movie.
So if your into comedies or a Rodney fan don't be put off by how old this movie is like I was because its age, if anything, makes the movie even better.
This in many ways is the best Dangerfield film. Harold Ramis is genius
in working in a lot of Dangerfield quips into the script. The movie
flows well, and the supporting cast is appropriate & stronger than any
of Rodney's other films.
Sally Kellerman is in her best form since M*A*S*H as the English Professor who is Rodney's love interest. Robert Downey Jr. is cast perfectly as a character who resembles him in real life - a drugged out pacifist who protests campus life & all about it without knowing what message he is really sending. The actors who play straight men for Rodney from Dean Martin to the Business Professor are perfectly cast.
The late Sam Kinneson is perfect in his small role in this as the History Professor. Wish he could have done more work like this. If there any extra scenes of him cut in this film, it would be great if they could be restored.
Harold Ramis, who also did work ranging from GHOSTBUSTERS (trendy) to GROUND HOG DAY (classic), touches show in the script. He works Rodney's character in perfect & the plot shows some of the imagination that makes Bill Murrays classic comedy so great. He allows Rodney to be himself, but frames his character so well that he is a perfect a fit as the clothing store Mellon runs.
Special kudos to Mellon's son, as he plays straight very well to his dad. Weakest of the cast is the girlfriend, but she is not given quite enough script to work with here so she makes do with what she has. At least she does OK with it.
All the characters show a lot of class & this film is a fine comedy from start to finish.
"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.
This is as classic (though campy) as Rodney gets. I just had to comment
ahead of time that any remake of this, especially one involving Cedric
the Entertainer, cannot possibly live up to the original.
I'm really tired of Hollywood trying to win over the hip-hoppy, shallow culture by instilling Cedrick the Entertainer in this remake-to-be when the original was done by a classic entertainer. What's next...a remake of Animal House with P-Diddy as Bluto (or whatever he calls himself these days)? Rodney is already turning over in his grave knowing how bad the remake is going to be. Somewhere up there I hope he can convince God to strike the set with thunderous bolts of lightning and 14 inch hailstones. Can't Hollywood leave well enough alone? Rodney, now that you're dead....they give you even less respect!
A funny post-Animal House college film with a pretty distinguished cast. In
addition to Dangerfield, who is terrific as usual, we also get to see Sally
Kellerman, Burt Young, Ned Beatty, and an introduction to the brilliance of
Robert Downey Jr. who is unforgettable as Derek Lutz. Although the movie is
silly, lacking any convincing realism or plot, it is nontheless wonderful
fun...especially if you are a Dangerfield fan. His rendition of "Twist and
Shout" is a classic. And the scene at registration where his chauffeur Lou,
played by the redoubtable Young, is priceless when he holds up a sign by the
limo with Bruce Springstein's name on it and all the students rush out to
mob the car while Dangerfield, his son, his son's love interest, and Lutz
have the pick of classes.
Generally good viewing when you want a brainless, fun night.
I don't think that Rodney Dangerfield is funny all the time, but in this comedy he delivers perfectly. He fits perfectly it the role of a rich, successful businessman who starts college to achieve a certificate, which he doesn't have. The way he does this in his own, relaxing and laid back-style is great and really funny. A very cool plot indeed, that's for sure. The movie is full of great fun and has many exciting moments in it, so I suggest that everyone check this out for themselves to experience that. The last scene on the diving board is especially great. Totally hilarious, and I laughed all the way through it.
In what might be the apex of Rodney Dangerfield's career, he plays
boorish millionaire Thornton Melon, finally attending college. The
movie is really an excuse for Dangerfield to be a complete goof-off,
containing every silly thing imaginable. Possibly the best line is
Thornton's comment about Longfellow.
As for the other characters, Keith Gordon does OK as Thornton's son Jason, but Robert Downey Jr. is even neater as Jason's ultra-left-wing friend Derek, who even has a theory about the fascism of football. Sally Kellerman, Burt Young, M. Emmet Walsh, Adrienne Barbeau, Ned Beatty, Sam Kinison and Robert Picardo are all pretty good in their roles (there's even an appearance by Kurt Vonnegut). It's just that this is Rodney Dangerfield's movie all the way. I think that it's quite safe to assert that the Man Who Got No Respect will truly be missed.
A hilarious movie.
I love Rodney Dangerfield. Always have. His one-liners, and all-around
smartass attitude have made him a living legend and he never fails to crack
me up. Back to School is a great example of what he can do and I never get
tired of watching it. Keith Gordon is great as his son and Robert Downey
Jr. is pretty hysterical as his best bud. The ever-reliable Burt Young is a
lot of fun as Dangerfield's limo-driver/best friend and he does his duty at
supplying the laughs.
It's a shame that more people haven't seen this. I believe that it's one of Rodney's best. It's got a great premise, an outstanding cast, and the laughs are nonstop.
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