A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that National Lampoon's Animal House is the classic 1978 comedy about a hedonistic college fraternity circa 1962. Some of the comedy glorifies underage binge drinking, casual sex with minors and married women, and the sex-at-all-costs mentality that, in light of so many reports of campus rape and college students dying from binge drinking, hasn't aged well. It's also the movie that basically launched the "college party" movies of the '80s and beyond -- movies that also glorified sex without consequence, binge drinking, and other over-the-top misbehavior that took all of the content without any of Animal House's comments on repressive authority on the verge of leading youth into the Vietnam War. Frequent profanity, including "f--k." Reckless, drunken driving. Fistfights. Some female nudity -- breasts, buttocks. Bluto looks up the skirts of some cheerleaders and watches shirtless women have a pillow fight.
What's the story?
Fight for your right to party! In NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE, that's what the boys of the Delta House fraternity plan to do, despite the nefarious plans of the dean (John Vernon) and the guys of Omega house (notably, the chief meanie played by Mark Metcalf). Bluto (John Belushi), Otter (Tim Matheson), and the other guys of Delta house are seven-year seniors who use their time at school to score with girls, have toga parties, and generally enjoy themselves. But Dean Wormer and the bullies of Omega house are out to harsh their mellow. The dean puts the fraternity on "double secret probation" and plans to throw them out at their next infraction. So when the guys steal Doug Neidermeyer's horse and put it in the dean's office for fun, and their grades come out far below the required level to stay at the school, the dean pulls their charter and expels the guys. But will they go out without a fight? Not a chance.
Is it any good?
For any guy who's ever had the figurative sand kicked in his face by a jock or been placed in the "dweeb corner" at the cool-guy party, John Landis' film is wish fulfillment. Don't bother trying to find the plot, though. It's more fun to go along for the prank-playing, wild ride while singing along with the amazingly energetic soundtrack. If you think too hard about it, Animal House isn't a whole lot better than today's teen sexploitation films like American Pie. Note that there's a lot of dated humor; you may need to explain to teens why jokes about things like having sex with a minor were considered funny back in the day.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about college-based comedies. What are some other examples of movies in which collegiate hedonism reigns supreme that came out after Animal House?
This movie was written by editors and writers for National Lampoon -- a popular satirical magazine before becoming a vehicle for comedies such as Animal House and the Vacation series of movies. What aspects of society do you think the writers were satirizing in this movie? How do they drive this point home at the end?
In light of more recent stories of campus rape and college students dying of alcohol poisoning as a result of binge drinking, what aspects of this movie haven't aged well?
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