Old School (2003): Movies

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A coworker kept insisted that I have to see Old School, that it was just the funniest movie in ages. The day it came out he rushed out to buy it, watched it immediately, and has been quoting lines from the movie ever since. I should know by now, having suffered through previous suggestions of movies from him, such as my “most-loathed movie of all time” pick — the atrocious Saving Silverman. Alas, I somehow get talked into watching these awful movies.

Critics like Roger Ebert hated it. But even he doesn’t mention the overabundance of Will Ferrel’s ass in this movie. I really didn’t need to see that quite so often. Or at all. I’m not gay, but if I have to see a man’s ass multiple times in a movie, it should at least be a decent looking one. Will Ferrell’s butt, and any of the other male butts so gratuitously on display in the movie, need not be seen in all its glory in order to understand that it is not an attractive feature of most males. It’s just assumed. (I also did not need to see the multiple angles of Geoffrey Rush’s bum in Quills, but it was a much better movie, and also had the lovely Kate Winslet to counteract the effects of Rush’s wrinkly, saggy bottom.)

I should have paid more attention to those “quotes”: Not a single one of them was even remotely funny, which is what the movie basically was, too. That’s the thing lately, so it seems — to quote random lines from a movie without any regard for whether they mean anything or not. I kept hearing the phrase “good stuff” over and over at work, and I really expected it to be something that was given some depth in the movie. I thought it was something that was constantly repeated and became one of the characters’ calling cards. No, it was just a single line, spoken precisely once in the entire movie.

What happened to good quotes? I’m talking about “It’s only a flesh wound” good, “This one goes to eleven” good. These are quotes that not only reveal a depth of devotion to a film, but also reveal something about the humor of the film itself. But this trend of un-worthy quotes seems to be a big phenomenon, as we have seen, multiple times now, an ad at the local theaters which proposes a “quotable quote” for you to figure out what movie it came from. The one that I see most often is “this is what happens when you lie” or something equally lame — so lame that I can’t even remember it exactly. What film was that? A John Travolta dud from the same period, Basic. It’s like people pick random lines out of movies to memorize and say back to other people, without realizing that quotes are supposed to mean something.

Quotes used to be a sort of signal to others that you were in with a particular crowd. Those of you who picked up the quotes above, and they are true classic quotes, are obviously fans of the same thing I am. They’re a sort of oath of membership to a “club” who appreciates whatever particular thing is represented by the quote. It’s not even that they’re particularly exclusive – the two films are widely known and loved, but they represent your sense of humor and even your worldview to others. But like most things today, quotes have become watered down and simplified by the masses so that anyone can join in. Just memorize a line, any line, and use it as a bargaining chip in the next conversation you join into.

The game used to be that if someone else could pick up another line from the film, you had a sort of bond with that person. Now, the quote is uttered and everyone says, “Huh?” The quoter then has to clue everyone in on the name of the film, and often on the particular scene. “Oh, yeah, that was funny,” is a common response. If your quote has to not only be explained, but elicits such a dull reaction, that’s not a good quote. And no, it’s not that the quote in question is particularly exclusive. It’s that it sucks, and so likely does the movie it came from.

(I have to point out that A Mighty Wind plays on this particularly well, as Fred Willard’s character is an idiotic manager who was once a short-time TV star long ago. He is still quoting his unmemorable catch-phrase “Wha’ happened” even now, to no response. I can’t sum up the problem better than they can. Rent or buy the movie.)

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has contributed to Blogcritics, and maintained a series of stand-alone sites including Known Johnson, Everything is a Mess and others. He studied both creative writing and then studio art at Arizona State. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Tom Johnson
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