It’s the time of year when students are preparing to head back to college to learn things, and it’s also that time of year when Duke Cannon thinks about movies he likes (OK, it’s always that time of year). And since the college movie genre is such an enduring one, we thought we’d help you wade through the backlog by talking about some of our favorites. Side note: although Cliff’s Notes for movies aren’t a thing, we think they should be.
NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE
The gold standard by which other college comedies are judged, and the reason why men of a certain age (including Duke Cannon) all named their first ramshackle car “The Deathmobile.” This one has it all: frat houses, toga parties, valuable golf tips, food fights, pledge pins, road trips, and homecoming parades reduced to chaos—not to mention future U.S. Senator John Blutarsky. Thank you, sir—may we have another viewing? We’ve only seen it 1,367 times before.
There are those who will say “Hey – this is technically a sports movie, not a college movie!” and to them we say, “Shut your bratwurst hole.” The fact is that the movie is set at a college and therefore it qualifies. Unlike most movies set at college, this is not a comedy, but if you can’t find inspiration in the story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruetigger, an undersized walk-on practice squad player determined to play for Notre Dame’s fabled Fighting Irish football team, then we respectfully suggest that you get checked for a pulse.
Another underdog football story, but now played for laughs, this movie has The Fonz skillfully pulling just the right coaching strings to transform team waterboy Adam Sandler into the most devastating linebacker in college football. Meanwhile: a feared GED test is passed with flying colors, old scores are settled, and the good guys win the big bowl game in the end. Also, please note that this movie has Jerry Reed in it, thereby cementing its top-notch cinematic credentials.
Although we do not condone streaking, we have been known to wash our Trans Am in the driveway on occasion, so this one hits home. Sure, the premise of some middle-aged fellows re-visiting their collegiate glory days by starting a fraternity might seem like a thin one, but this movie nonetheless succeeds because of the chemistry of its cast, a high level of quotability, memorable set pieces, and the wise artistic choice of using a Kansas ballad to drive home the pain of losing a comrade.
BACK TO SCHOOL
Duke Cannon is a big proponent of practical, real-world experience, so we hold the saga of self-made man Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) and his quest to stop his (honestly kind of weird) kid from dropping out of college in high regard. Yes, Rodney mugs shamelessly throughout. So what? That’s what you paid your hard-earned dollars to see. Those who are excited by seemingly impossible high dives flawlessly executed by old men will also find much to love here, although fans of stuffy, tweed jacket-wearing professors will probably be offended.