Fans of that Kevin Bacon advert will be disappointed by his limited screen time in 1978 frat comedy National Lampoon’s Animal House. Set in 1962, Animal House tells the adventures and misdeeds of an unruly college fraternity full of drunks, pranksters and womanisers as the uptight dean tries to kick them off campus.
With its healthy sense of irreverence and mischief, Animal House is like a grown-up version of The Beano‘s Bash Street Kids, except not at all grown-up. John Landis’ direction ensures that it’s easy to get swept up in the nonsense of it all, with a handful of great gags along the way. Our antiheroes are cartoonish and obnoxious but they remain likeable, because alongside their stuffy rivals they somehow end up as the most sensible characters. It’s well acted, with appearances from Donald Sutherland, John Belushi and Karen “tollbooth” Allen, while the ’50s and ’60s soundtrack is both nostalgic and energetic. With its live-action cartoon style, Animal House is subversive, anarchic and joyous.
Its level of influence cannot be overstated – Animal House has a lot to answer for, paving the way for the likes of American Pie, The Hangover and Vince Vaughn. For that it is unforgivable, but Animal House has a sense of fun that is absent from the nastier-feeling frat comedies of today. It doesn’t gross us out like Superbad or bully anyone like Project X – on the contrary, it roots for the underdogs and has an irreverently beating heart.
Is it ruined by that Kevin Bacon advert?
No, Animal House is only mentioned briefly in one of the adverts. At just 20 years old this was Kevin Bacon’s first movie, and as in Friday the 13th we see him in his pants which begs the question of whether it’s written in his contract. As part of fraternity ritual he gets spanked while repeating: “Thank you sir, may I have another?” – surely the most demeaning thing he ever had to do, until he got the phone call from EE.
Should I watch it?
As always, you should watch The Simpsons‘ version – “Homer Goes to College.”