244. National Lampoon’s Animal House

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Movie: National Lampoon’s Animal House

Release Date: July 28, 1978

Director: John Landis

Starring: John Belushi, Tim Matheson, John Vernon, Verna Bloom, Thomas Hulce, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen.

Tag Lines: “We got to do something… You know what we are gonna do? Toga party!”

“These guys are flunking out of college and loving every minute of it! You will too.”

“A riotous comedy in a class of its own!”

“It was the Deltas against the rules… the rules lost!”

“We can do anything we want. We’re college students!”

“Relive the best 7 years of your college education!”

Relevance: Similar to the movie ’10’ (see 278. 10), I probably wasn’t supposed to be watching ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House’ when I was. I was only seven years old when it was released in theaters, but it probably was off of my radar as I was only really interested in “Super Friends” and “Scooby-Doo” at that time. But once it reached HBO, puberty was kicking in and any “R-rated” movie with nudity piqued my interest.

So just like I did with ’10’ (again see 278. 10), I watched ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House’ in a darkened living room all alone, volume turned as low as possible and sitting as close to the TV in case I needed to quickly change the channel. You know, like every normal pre-teen boy trying to watch a movie he shouldn’t have been watching. But I didn’t care. I was going to see boobs. At that point in my life, boobs were very important to me. They lost their luster somewhere around 1998, but that’s a story for another time. It wasn’t my first time seeing boobs on film, that honor goes to another movie I’ll be watching at the end of the year. But still, boobs. To a twelve year old boy in the 1980’s, is there really anything else in life?

Not only were there boobs in the movie, it made me laugh. A lot. So much so that I couldn’t wait to try and watch it again. Now my dad was a big fan of silly comedies like me, my mom on the other hand, not so much. So I am not sure how or why, but the next time it was showing on HBO my dad was going to watch it and said that I could watch it with him. Now as I have mentioned before, my parents were pretty liberal with what we were allowed to watch on TV. But I was still surprised by this. I am not sure if he got reviews from friends, discussed it with my mom or if he knew I already saw it, but my second time watching it was with my dad. (My guess is that he knew I already saw it. Now that I am a parent myself, we know a lot more than our kids think we do.) And like all comedies I watched with my dad growing up, I smiled and laughed at my dad’s reactions more than the movie itself.

I watched the movie all through high school and college and it was a film that never got old for me. It always made me laugh. I joined a fraternity my Sophomore year in college and of course images and scenes from this movie always flashed through my head while I was a pledge. Was there hazing? Absolutely. But it was never to the extent that it was in the movie, nor sadly was it ever that much fun.

Today’s Thoughts: As much as I love this movie, I don’t own it on DVD and haven’t seen it in its entirety for at least twenty years. So watching it today was extra fun for me. I am always curious to see if a movie made in the 1970’s is still relevant and can make you laugh so many years later. In short, the answer for this movie is yes.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching it today. It is a really silly film but with very funny and iconic scenes throughout and a fantastically humorous ensemble. Every character seems to have their moment to shine. Of course there is Kevin Bacon and “Thank you, sir! May I have another?” There is John Belushi’s “I’m a zit. Get it?” There is Tom Hulce’s comical “angel and devil” scene. And there is a lot of Mark Metcalf yelling. (I now have a sudden urge to listen to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and ” I Wanna Rock.”)

But my favorite character, both as a 12 year old and a now 49 year old, has to be Eric “Otter” Stratton gloriously performed by Tim Matheson. He was the epitome of “cool” to me when I first watched the movie. And he still is today. He has so many witty lines that he plays perfectly. Much of my laughter today was caused by his facial expressions alone, and a handsome, charming face at that. Plus, we get to see his naked butt. Boobs may have been all the rage at twelve, but at 49, I’ll take any naked male butt I can get. (My how times have changed.) And it was a very, very nice butt. I may have watched that scene more than once.

I can’t imagine that there is anyone of a certain age that hasn’t watched ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House’ at least one time. Everyone should see it. It is a comedy classic that should be shown to anyone as they head off to college, almost as a right of passage. Even my twenty-three year old son said he has seen it when I asked him about it today. Although he did say “You mean the movie with Jim Belushi?” To my dismay, my son is not one for details. At least he was close.

Awards: National Film Registry (2001), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen, Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney, Chris Miller (nomination).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Hulu, DVD Availability.

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