The late comedic actor John Belushi is perhaps best known for his role in “Animal House,” an iconic film from 1978 that spearheaded the genre of movies about college students going wild.
The film and Belushi’s character Bluto struck a chord with viewers all those years ago and he became ingrained in the cultural psyche of America. So much so that a photo of Belushi was used on salon.com on February 22 to attract readers to an article on the cost of college education in the United States.
Belushi’s Bluto is the party-hardy spiritual head of Delta Tau Chi in “Animal House.”
“Seven years of college down the drain,” Belushi morns, riding the line perfectly between sincerity and mock seriousness. Later: “When the going gets tough,” he hollers, “the tough get going!”
It’s when executing the manic, exuberant second quote that Belushi, and the movie, is at its best.
Unfortunately, despite Belushi and a handful of very quotable lines, the movie is not able to sustain the momentum. This is due to a few reasons.
The most noticeable is rather than the usual cast of kooky characters known to consort with Belushi — Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, etc — the people that surround him in “Animal House” are for the most part flat.
Even by appearance rather than reputation, the movie looks like its starring kids with the exception of ringers Belushi and the always compelling Donald Sutherland as a liberal professor.
The harder to pinpoint problem is the sort of petty cruelty that runs through the entire film. I don’t need the protagonists in Delta Tau Chi to be “good” in the heroic sense, but I don’t find them to even be attractive or compelling in any way.
Part of this goes to a core part of my personal university experience. Namely: social fraternities, as a whole, are pretty loathsome from idea to execution. At best, the frat boys in “Animal House” all seem entitled, mean and hedonistic. At worst, they’re typically and boorishly evil.
And with a mostly subpar cast and pacing that falters, “Animal House” is an interesting cultural relic, but it doesn’t hold up today.
‘Animal House’ (1978)
• Where to see it: The Pearl, 471 Zhapu Rd
• When to see it: March 5, 8:45pm (It’s part of a triple feature at The Pearl, sandwiched between “1941” and “Caddyshack.”)
• Price: Free
• What to see: “Animal House” is one of the most iconic comedy films of all time, a symbol of college-aged hijinks and debauchery. It follows the rivalry of the snotty dean (played by John Vernon) and his Omega Theta Pi Fraternity stooges as they try to kick the slovenly Delta Tau Chi Fraternity off campus.