Writer-director Todd Phillips first received national attention when Frat House, his documentary exposé on fraternity hazing, became a Sundance sensation. But before the film's release, accusations of staging surfaced, causing its distributor to shelve it, perhaps permanently. Phillips has maintained that Frat House wasn't staged, and his subsequent college-sex comedies seem to support his assertion: It's hard to believe that the flat-footed, hopelessly clumsy auteur behind Road Trip and Old School could intentionally stage college hijinks that would seem even vaguely realistic, let alone pass for the unvarnished truth. A comedy with a terrific premise and little else, Old School stars Luke Wilson as a sad-sack attorney drudging aimlessly through adulthood when he catches his girlfriend (a bleached-blonde Juliette Lewis) cheating on him. Distraught and eager to regress back to a seemingly simpler, more joyful time, Wilson moves into the student district and helps similarly stunted buddies Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell establish a fraternity that prides itself on giving nothing back to the community. Old School's plot has potential for humor and pathos, both of which Phillips sidesteps in favor of broad slapstick and fits of awkward earnestness that make the Farrelly brothers look like Ernst Lubitsch-esque masters of cinematic tone. Old School feels like it was edited with garden shears: Crucial scenes seem to be missing, while a handful of unnecessary subplots do little but pad a film that's already as breezy and brisk as a three-hour final. In the end, Old School's lackluster execution does little more than prove that there's no such thing as a foolproof premise.
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