Directed by Alan Metter
When he learns that his son Jason Melon (Keith Gordon) is going to drop out of college, businessman Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) decides to join him in order to motivate him to stay in.
This is a classic 80s comedy done in a way only you could in that decade. It is basically 90 minutes of Rodney Dangerfield doing his schtick with jokes that would get him cancelled today and it is all hilarious. Melon is a very successful businessman with a chain of tall and fat clothing stores and many other ventures who is just Dangerfield’s stage persona translated to the big screen. In fact, I do not think he did anything else when he was in movies. And that is just fine. You come here to see Rodney Dangerfield perform.
In this snobs versus slobs film, our slob Thornton Melon goes up against crafty snob Dr. Phillip Barbay (Paxton Whitehead) who thinks Melon tossing his money around is an afront to the institution but also sees this man as a threat to his romantic interest in Dr. Diane Turner (Sally Kellerman). Why they did not just name Barbay “Bombay” I do not know. They were not above making very silly jokes here.
Sam Kinison in his small part as Terguson is absolutely unforgettable. Here he was a history teacher with possible PTSD that was a tad unhinged. As Thornton said “Good teacher. He really seems to care. About what I have no idea.”
We also get early performances by Robert Downey Jr. as Jason’s only friend Derek. There is also an early appearance by Terry Farrell as Valerie who is the love interest here. Everybody’s favorite 80s jerk William Zabka is Chas who is the nemesis that Jason must overcome. And we even get an appearance by Burt Young as Melon’s friend and limo driver Lou who is just as rough around the edges as Melon is.
I am kind of surprised that there is genuine screen chemistry between Dangerfield and Kellerman. They just really click in their respective roles and got you to believe that the stunning Dr. Turner would fall for the bug-eyed and crass Thornton.
Back to School is just one ridiculous scene after another. They go for the laugh and reality be damned! They push the concept as far as they can in the world they have created. Too often comedies play it safe.
Push the boundaries of your world as far as you can and get the audience to laugh. You will have a comedy that will withstand the test of time if you do that. Blazing Saddles still makes people laugh to this day and some of the jokes are rather dated. Airplane! is another example of this. Some of the jokes are dated but people still laugh throughout those movies. This movie is in that same vein. And I dare say it is as much of a classic as either of those films.
This movie is one of many college comedies that came out from the time. This is probably one of the few college comedies from that time though that anybody actually remembers. That is because it is a genuinely funny film. It has a solid script and a steady stream of jokes that are as funny or funnier than the last one.
Back to School is a classic comedy. It is a genuinely funny film that you will want to watch again and again. Put it in and have a good time.