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Sunday, 9 September 2018

Retro Review: Back To School (1986)

Back To School
1986
Cast: Rodney Dangerfield, Sally Kellerman,  Burt Young, Ned Beatty, Sam Kinison, Robert Downey Jr. 
Genre: Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $91 million

Plot: To help his discouraged son get through college, a funloving and obnoxious rich businessman decides to enter the school as a student himself





'Top Of The Class'

Back To School is your standard comedy vehicle, which is spearheaded by the late comic actor & comedian, Rodney Dangerfield and one that could have sprung from The Disney Channel or as a second-rate National Lampoon offering. In fact, it could have starred any other elder comedic actor in place of Dangerfield: Walter Matthau, Jonathan Winters, Jerry Lewis, Mel Brooks or even Richard Pryor. But with Dangerfield, his comedic style and the delivery and timing of it works wonders and following on from 1980's Caddyshack, he really excels in this movie and was also his third major outing. 

After divorcing and separating from his philandering wife, Vanessa, a wealthy-yet not very bright businessman of a men's clothing chain, ''Tall & Fat'', Thronton Melon moves forward and decides to enrol at a college/university. But this is not any college/university: in fact, it is his son, Jason's that he is paying a visit to - whom he believes is on the diving team, as well as joining a fraternity, and one that he is currently attending, in the hopes of strengthening his ties with him and to prevent him from dropping out. Thornton hatches a plan to ensure Jason sees the value and benefits of a good education. His efforts endear him to students and most professors, one of whom an English professor that he develops a bit of a crush on. 

It's not a laugh-out-loud comedy and it's not a comedy masterpiece, but it made me grin from ear to ear in places and is one of the numbers of lesser-known '80s comedies, which has a bit of a cult following of its own. Dangerfield is enjoyable and for someone who isn't familiar with most of his other work, there is something about his humour that makes it endearing, in an amusing grandpa, old man kind of way. The other performances are solid, although I'd like to have seen Robert Downey Jr as Thornton's son, as opposed to Jason's so-called eccentric friend. I liked the romantic 'will-they-won't they?' subplots with Jason and Thornton and their female love interests and the way it was conceived wasn't cringing or sappy. But Dangerfield owns Back To School and is the eventual star of this show, who uses this vehicle to showcase his talents and comedy and put it into effective use. In most cases, he is taking his stand-up persona that has a down-on-their-luck everyman quality and transfers it into a film such as this. 

One of the executive producers is Harold Ramis of Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day fame, whilst it was directed by Alan Metter, whose last notable gig was the last and worst of the Police Academy series, Police Academy 8: Mission To Moscow.

Back To School is Revenge of The Nerds, Bachelor Party, only with more class, charm and is far more enjoyable and the story holds up. It does have some cursing, some nudity, but otherwise, it remains good-natured, harmless and one you can sit back, relax and enjoy. 





Final Verdict:


It doesn't quite stand out from the pack, but it most certainly has something going for it that is sort of different, but also in Rodney Dangerfield, he provides that spark, enthusiasm and comedy style that feels right at home in Back To School and without being overbearing & hogging too much of the limelight. 

Over 30 years on, the second- highest grossing comedy of 1986, not to mention it became the sixth highest grossing film by outperforming James Cameron's Aliens & Ferris Bueller's Day Off, still holds up remarkably well.

It is a college comedy that has been revisited, rediscovered, as well as discovered by newbies by me, who'd never seen it before until now, and in Back To School, it gets an A grade for effort.


Overall:



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