Old School (film)

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Old School
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTodd Phillips
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Court Crandall
  • Todd Phillips
  • Scot Armstrong
Produced by
CinematographyMark Irwin
Edited byMichael Jablow
Music byTheodore Shapiro
Distributed byDreamWorks Pictures
Release date
  • February 21, 2003 (2003-02-21)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$24 million[1]
Box office$87.1 million[1]

Old School is a 2003 American comedy film directed and co-written by Todd Phillips. The film stars Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and Will Ferrell as depressed men in their thirties who seek to relive their college days by starting a fraternity, and the tribulations they encounter in doing so. The film was released on February 21, 2003, received mixed reviews from critics, and grossed $87 million worldwide.


Returning home early from a business trip, real estate attorney Mitch Martin walks in on his girlfriend Heidi hosting an orgy, and breaks up with her. At his friend Frank's wedding, Mitch makes an awkward impression on his high school crush, Nicole, and soon moves into a house near Harrison University campus in upstate New York.

Mitch's friend Bernard throws a hugely successful housewarming party, dubbed Mitch-A-Palooza. A drunken Frank is seen streaking by his wife Marissa and her friends, straining their new marriage, while Mitch wakes up in bed with Darcie, a young woman he later learns is his boss' daughter and a high school senior. Kicked out by Marissa after an unfortunate couple's therapy session, Frank moves in with Mitch.

The friends are visited by an acquaintance they used to ridicule: Gordon Pritchard, now the college dean, who has had the house rezoned exclusively for campus housing. Exploiting a university loophole, Bernard turns the house into a fraternity open to anyone, and the friends carry out hazing events throughout campus, much to Pritchard's displeasure.

At a birthday party for one of Bernard's children, Mitch walks in on Nicole's boyfriend Mark kissing a woman. Elderly WW2-vet fraternity brother Blue dies of a heart attack during a "KY lube wrestling" match with two college girls at his birthday celebration, and Marissa asks Frank for a divorce.

Pritchard bribes student council president Megan Huang, promising to get her into Columbia Law School in exchange for revoking the fraternity's charter. Nicole confronts Mitch after Mark lies that he caught Mitch with the woman at the party instead, and Mitch's attempt to explain is complicated by a run-in with Darcie. Pritchard has the fraternity evicted, placing the students in the now unsanctioned fraternity at risk of expulsion.

Mitch determines they have the right to bypass Pritchard's ruling if all members complete various assessments to prove their legitimacy. Frank defeats James Carville in a debate session, and the fraternity cheat their way through an exam with the help of Mitch's co-workers. In the school spirit evaluation, the fraternity loses points when Frank, dressed as the school mascot, unsuccessfully jumps through a ring of fire.

Megan confronts Pritchard for reneging on their deal, and the fraternity faces their final athletics challenge. A badly burned Frank gives a strong rhythmic gymnastics performance, Bernard manages to complete the rings routine, and Weensie, an obese member chosen by Pritchard, executes a perfect vault landing. The fraternity triumphs, but Pritchard gives them a failing score by accounting for the absence of the late Blue. Megan provides a tape recording of Pritchard admitting to bribery and, after a chase across campus, Frank recovers the tape.

Pritchard is fired and the fraternity's charter is reinstated, and they move into Pritchard's former residence. Nicole visits Mitch as he moves out of the old fraternity house, revealing that she dumped Mark after catching him cheating. They reconcile, and Mitch and Bernard return to their normal lives while Frank assumes leadership of the fraternity.

In a mid-credits scene, Mark drives off a bridge and lands on a fly-fishing Pritchard as the car explodes. Frank meets Heidi, who invites him to a "get-together," and he enthusiastically accepts.



At the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, Todd Phillips premiered the documentary Frat House to acclaim, winning the Grand Jury Prize in the Documentary category with co-director Andrew Gurland.[2] Ivan Reitman, who had produced the fraternity house comedy Animal House, saw the documentary and wanted to collaborate with Phillips to revive the frat comedy film genre.[2] The first film from Reitman and Phillips’s partnership was the 2000 comedy Road Trip, which was also the first collaboration between screenwriter Scot Armstrong and Phillips. The success of Road Trip prompted Armstrong and Phillips to pitch Reitman on a fraternity-themed film centered around adult men instead of the usual college-aged kids. Said Armstrong, "There's a weird brotherhood that happens when you're in college were you're kind of finding yourself, and it was funny to think of old people doing it."[2]

Old School was filmed in and around La Crescenta, California from January 7, 2002 until March 18, 2002. Filming locations included Palisades High School, UCLA, USC and Harvard University.[3][4] The film is considered a forerunner to the Frat Pack since three of its stars—Ferrell, Vaughn, and Wilson—are core members of that group.[5]


Critical response[edit]

Old School received mixed to positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 60% based on reviews from 167 critics, with an average score of 5.6/10. The website's consensus states, "While not consistently funny, the movie does have its moments."[6] On Metacritic, it has a score of 54 out of 100 based on reviews from 32 critics, indicating "Mixed or average reviews".[7] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B+ on a scale of A to F.[8]

Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times called it a "sloppy, dumb, though occasionally funny comedy," comparing it to "a half-empty glass of Coke that's been sitting out for a couple of days; sure, it looks like cola, but one sip tells you exactly what's missing."[9] He called out both Phillips and co-executive producer Ivan Reitman for rehashing their previous works and accused the latter of self-plagiarism by saying that the film was "so derivative of Animal House (and, more specifically, its children) that it's like one of those by-the-numbers imitative movies Homer Simpson is so obsessed with."[9] Mitchell added that Phillips "comes even closer than Mr. Reitman to stealing from himself."[9] Mitchell praised Ferrell for using "his hilarious, anxious zealotry to sell the part" and Cuthbert who "hijacks the handful of scenes she has."[9]

Roger Ebert gave the film one out of four stars and stated, "This is not a funny movie, although it has a few good scenes and some nice work by Ferrell as an apparently compulsive nudist."[10] Variety called it "This year's kinder, gentler Animal House."[11]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $17,453,216 in 2,689 theaters in its opening weekend at the U.S. box office, opening at #2 behind Daredevil which was on its second week at the top spot. Old School grossed receipts of $75,585,093 in the U.S. and Canada and $11,550,427 in international markets for a total of $87,135,520 worldwide.[1]


Home media[edit]

Old School was released on VHS and DVD in both rated and unrated versions on June 10, 2003.[16] The unrated Blu-ray was released on December 16, 2008.[17]


At the Mitch-a-palooza party, Snoop Dogg and Kokane perform "Paper'd Up", sampling Eric B & Rakim's track "Paid in Full". The soundtrack also includes "Fun Night" by Andrew W.K., "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas, "Hungry Like the Wolf", "The Farmer in the Dell", "Gonna Make You Sweat", "Louie Louie" by Black Flag, "Chariots of Fire", "Good Lovin' Gone Bad", "Master of Puppets" by Metallica, "Playground in My Mind" by Clint Holmes and "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel. The main song in this movie is "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake, which is played when Will Ferrell's character is fixing his car and in the closing credits. Also, The Dan Band sings one of the famous songs of Bonnie Tyler, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (with some interesting improvisational departures as to the cover's lyrics), and Styx's "Lady". During the introductory sequence Ryan Adams' "To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)", co-written with David Rawlings, can be heard most memorably during the metal detector scene.[18]

Canceled sequel[edit]

In 2006, a sequel, titled Old School Dos, was written by Scot Armstrong but was turned down by original stars, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn.[2] The story concerned the aging fraternity going to spring break. While promoting Semi-Pro in 2008, Ferrell had this to say about the defunct project: "I read [the script]. Some super funny set pieces, but I don't know. I think Vince [Vaughn] had the same reaction. We’re just kind of doing the same thing again. It was like us going to Spring Break, but we’ve got to find this guy who's the head of a fraternity. Once again, funny things but it's just us once again back in a fraternity setting. It just felt like it was repeating. But watch, I'm over-thinking it."[19]


  1. ^ a b c "Old School (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 9, 2024.
  2. ^ a b c d Alter, Ethan (February 21, 2023). "'Old School' at 20: How Will Ferrell streaked his way to stardom in the 2003 college comedy hit". Yahoo!. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  3. ^ "Film Locations for Old School (2003), in Los Angeles and Cambridge, Massachusetts". The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  4. ^ Trivedi, Dhruv (July 2, 2022). "Where was Old School (2003) Filmed?". The Cinemaholic. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  5. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan (June 15, 2004). "Wilson and Vaughn: Leaders of the 'Frat Pack'". USA Today. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  6. ^ "Old School (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  7. ^ "Old School". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 3, 2009.
  8. ^ "Old School (2003) B+". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d Mitchell, Elvis (February 21, 2003). "FILM REVIEW; Never Too Late to Have an Adolescence". The New York Times. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 21, 2003). "Old School movie review & film summary (2003)". Chicago Sun-Times.
  11. ^ Harvey, Dennis (February 13, 2003). "Old School". Variety.
  12. ^ "2003 Artios Awards". Casting Society of America. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  13. ^ "2003 MTV Movie Awards". MTV. Archived from the original on June 30, 2015. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  14. ^ "Winners & Nominees". Taurus World Stunt Awards. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  15. ^ "Spike TV's "Guys Choice" Awards 2012". CBS News. June 3, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  16. ^ "Old School". DVD Talk. June 5, 2003. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  17. ^ "Old School Blu-Ray (Unrated)". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  18. ^ "Old School". TheOST.
  19. ^ Stephenson, Hunter (February 29, 2008). "Will Ferrell Talks Land of the Lost, Old School 2, Elf 2 and A Confederacy of Dunces". /Film. Archived from the original on January 24, 2009. Retrieved April 2, 2020.

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