I had only barely seen Animal House before deciding in the opening hours of 2018 to keep the party going with the 1978 film by John Landis. At a sleepover in high school, my friend's father put in Animal House and encouraged us to watch but having just finished Scrooged hours before (not a fan) I elected to play The Sims with the few others disinterested in the comedy. It's not a decision I regret, The Sims is amazing, and I can say with little certainty that had I watched Animal House that evening I would not have enjoyed it. Over a decade later, however, I can happily report that Animal House was an excellent way to ring in a new year and log my first film of 2018. The film that watches like a perpetual party kept the fun alive in a brilliant way. Boasting an outstanding cast including Tom Hulce, Karen Allen, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Bacon in his film debut, and of course, John Belushi as troublemaking college students in 1962, Animal House captures the familiar time in one's life, college, in a hilariously captivating way.
Every college has to have that one corner of Greek life that has such incredibly low standards that anyone is accepted into their milieu, for Faber College, such distinction belongs to Delta Tau Chi. The members of Delta neglect their classes, they pull pranks on fellow students and faculty alike, and their number one priority is to ensure that there is always a party going on. Delta is the embarrassment of the college, Dean Wormer, and their fellow Faber College fraternity, Omega Theta Pi. The Omegas are comprised of the brightest, most attractive, and wealthiest students on campus, and will stop at nothing along with Dean Wormer to bring an end to the Delta Tau Chi fraternity. When the two forces join together, they finally come up with a plan to have every member of Delta expelled. Refusing to go down without a fight, Delta focuses their energy on sabotaging the lives of the members of their rival fraternity, and Dean Wormer, himself. Along the way, Larry Kroger (Tom Hulce) and Kent Dorfman (Stephen Furst) learn to accept themselves, and others, after being brought into the Delta fraternity. Granted, Delta accepts anyone, including those rejected by all other fraternities, nevertheless, finding acceptance after their worlds have been so expanded by college proves a meaningful experience. Navigating college, and coming into one's own is a relatable occurrence, and one aptly tackled by John Landis's 1978 classic.
I went through a spell last year when I was completely obsessed with Amadeus (1984), I watched it eight times in just as many nights. Before seeing him in Amadeus, I hadn't seen Tom Hulce in anything, so it was fun to see him play a completely different character in Animal House. Another fun casting realization was seeing another film starring Karen Allen and Peter Riegert together. In the middle of 2016, I discovered the film White Irish Drinkers (2011) and completely fell in love with it. The film stars Karen Allen and Peter Riegert, so seeing them as co-stars, love interests no less, in a film more than 30 years prior was a complete joy. The best casting revelation, which was a complete surprise, was realizing that Donald Sutherland had a role in Animal House. Sutherland's part is brief, but there is a scene in which he is seen without his briefs, and if that isn't enough to entice someone to watch, I don't know what it would take. Maybe that would just work for me, actually, or other similar Sutherland obsessives. The late John Belushi stars as John Blutarsky, the standout intro that inspired me to watch Animal House, as it fits in with this month's themes of spectacular film introductions. We meet him in a drunken state as he introduces the two rushes and the audience to the Delta house during a party. Belushi has a number of memorable scenes, most of which are the exact scenes audiences recall when reminiscing about Animal House. In an interesting directorial decision by Landis, Belushi's character is kept out of a number of pivotal scenes to the film, a decision Belushi reportedly was, at least on occasion against. Belushi made the most of his minimal screen presence, shining like he always did in comedic roles and breaking the fourth wall in such a way that would make Jim Halpert swoon. Belushi's entrance set the stage for the rest of the film and the party that would follow until the end credits rolled.