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Animal House

Year: 1978
Studio: Universal
Director: John Landis
Producer: Ivan Reitman
Writer: Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney, Chris Miller
Cast: Tom Hulce, John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen, John Vernon, Bruce McGill, Donald Sutherland

The teen frat comedy is a staple nowadays, and like Citizen Kane, Rashomon and Scarface, the tropes particular to the genre have been done a million times since, and often better.

But in this case (and it was a huge surprise to discover this after I watched it again recently – for only the second time ever, and the first time in about twenty years), subsequent entries into the genre are better because this film simply isn't very funny.

I really got the feeling Landis and writer Harold Ramis sat around reminiscing about their college days and amplifying memories of derring-do into set pieces they thought would be funny, then did their best to stitch them together with a plot that felt like an afterthought.

It shows us the goings on in a madcap frathouse in the early 60s, a den of iniquity so outrageous the slimy, menacing dean of students (Vernon) is determined to throw them out of the college. The associated misfits hatch a plan to fight back, hijacking the climatic town parade to cause havoc.

It launched more than a few enduring careers, but didn't really deserve to. That's of course easier to say with hindsight. As teen comedies go, it's much like the film of steam trains roaring across the desert cinemagoers saw in the 1900s – incredible only because we'd never seen anything like it.

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