National Lampoon’s Animal House Remastered Edition Blu-ray Review: Toga! Toga!

While rewatching National Lampoon’s Animal House, I couldn’t help but notice a few things. The first is just how many well-known names are attached to this movie. Obviously, John Belushi made his big break in the movies with his role as John “Bluto” Blutarsky. But it’s amazing to see how many other people were involved. A young Bruce McGill and Kevin Bacon, as well as Donald Sutherland, giving terrific performances, but also John Landis as director, Ivan Reitman as co-producer, and Harold Ramis as co-writer. The second is, even 45 years after its release, none of the other raunchy college comedies that came later can top it. Van Wilder, which also was a product of National Lampoon, has some elements, and Todd Phillips’ Old School was as blatant of a carbon copy as you could get. And yet neither of those hold a candle.

The film is a smartly written, gross-out, and sometimes uncomfortably funny comedy that tells the story about the trouble-making fraternity Delta House, and its wild and raucous members that just scoot by while in college. It’s known as the primary party house, despite its members having the worst grades on campus and the upkeep being extremely poor. Two college freshmen at Faber find themselves pledging to Delta and get involved in its wild parties, soon realizing that it is certainly not the experience they expected.

Belushi had an unexpectedly short-lived career, and Animal House serves as a reminder of his immense talent. His performance as Bluto is one for the ages. A scene involving him in the cafeteria grabbing all the food that is present is hilariously gross-out, even without really overstepping itself. Just the mere imagery of Bluto shoving food on his plate, while eating other food and putting it back on the service table, is outrageously funny.

I had just recently revisited Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which was released the same year and features Sutherland but in a more dramatic role. His performance in Animal House as the lonesome Professor Dave Jennings is hilarious and makes you wish Sutherland would go for more comedic roles these days. Another actor featured here is John Vernon as Dean Vernon Wormer. The performance he gives here is similar to the one he would later give in Killer Klowns from Outer Space 10 years later, with that snarky, too-old-for-this-crap attitude. And despite the roles in both films being very similar, Vernon is perfect.

There are several scenes that would certainly not work in modern culture, such as a moment when an all-white group of college kids unexpectedly enter a bar that is populated with black people. Granted, the movie was set in the 1960s, and the scene is played for laughs and is quite funny. But it also makes one wonder how younger audiences, who may not know much about a lot of the non-PC humor of the ’70s, would react to it.

Landis unleashes a lot of chaotic moments that are hysterical and zany, almost to the point of being slapstick. But his direction is controlled and toned down to a realistic approach to how the college scene might have been during that time. Animal House still holds up with its clever writing and risk-taking approach to humor, and a performance by Belushi that will make you wish his career would have gone on for longer than it did.

The Blu-ray release for National Lampoon’s Animal House only has three special features, all of which were from previous releases. But the picture and sound quality on this new disc are perfect. The quotable lines come through the speakers clearly, and the imagery has very little grain to it. I’m not sure how it compares to other recent releases of the film, such as the 4K and steelbook editions. But, if this hasn’t yet made it to your collection, this new remastered edition is worth picking up.

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David Wangberg

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