Last night my friend in I attended a screening of Animal House at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, as part of their “TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy” series, which includes some of my other favorite comedy classics like Ghostbusters, Meatballs, Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Old School.
I first watched Animal House after my older brother handed over some VHS cassettes to me and my parents after he went digital and replaced most of his favorite movies with DVDs. I had never heard of the film before and am not quite sure what compelled me to pop it into the VHS one day. I think that I have grown to appreciate and like the movie a lot more since that day, but even then I remember thinking it was a pretty funny film. I have seen it many times since then and it only continues to climb higher and higher in my opinion. One key reason for this is me coming to fully understand its place in the film comedy genre.
Just take a look at Old School (which although mirrors Animal House in many ways, is additionally a comedic remake of Fight Club, seriously, think about it!), the crusty old dean in pretty much any comedy in the last few decades (including the TV show within The Simpsons “The School of Hard Knockers”, and the Futurama episode featuring Bender’s foray into fraternity life as a member of Robot House at Mars University), as well as university/college life in general around major North American schools and you will see that the influences of Animal House are everywhere. When my friend and I were discussing this prior to the show I said that in some ways Animal House is like the Citizen Kane of comedies. It has been spoofed so many times that watching the original just brings to mind the oh so many times I had seen the same scenes reenacted in other TV shows and movies.
It was great to watch this film with a crowd of people, the majority of which had already seen the film and knew what was coming next. The anticipatory chuckles and the hearty laughter following funny moments always makes public viewing of comedies more enjoyable. I personally think that is why outdoor film screenings have become so popular in Toronto over the past few summers. Sure I could swoon over Lloyd Dobler in the privacy of my own home, but watching Say Anything under the night sky at the Harbourfront a few summers ago, just added a more special feel to the film. A validation, if you will, of my personal appreciation of something.
I will leave you with one of my favorite clips of the movie and also a link to a very interesting article that discusses the origins and importance of Animal House. Some of the particularly interesting tidbits you will learn from reading it are:
- the script originally included what sounds to be a gratuitous number of vomiting scenes
- how John Landis (27 years old at the time) became involved
- the role The Graduate played in the crew finding a shooting location for the film
- Richard Pryor’s small but important role in the final editing process