Starring: Rodney Dangerfield, Keith Gordon, Robert Downey Jr.
Director: Alan Metter
Running Time: 96 mins
Back To School is an American film about a wealthy business tycoon who decides to go back to university in order to help his son to get a good education.
Nobody does the brilliant Rodney Dangerfield quite like the man himself. At the centre of the movie, he’s a hugely entertaining presence throughout, and gives a whole lot of life to an otherwise very cheesy movie. Back To School isn’t a work of cinematic genius, although it doesn’t go all-out to be a pure slapstick film as it so easily could have, and there are a whole lot of good laughs throughout.
However, we start with the man at the centre of the film: Rodney Dangerfield. His legendary performances in films like Caddyshack before are truly memorable, and Back To School does him just as well. As ever, he’s a hugely lively presence, always the best and funniest man on screen at every moment, and his unique brand of slapstick and charisma put together make up for well over half of the best laughs in this movie.
Dangerfield’s character isn’t necessarily as interesting as the story perhaps wants him to be, given the emphasis on his bizarre but still strong bond with his son, but even so, the film does a good enough job to keep giving you jokes and laughs to forget any issues with the story and have a hugely fun watch.
Alongside the main man, there aren’t really any stand-out performances that added to my enjoyment of the movie. For sheer weirdness, there’s an odd performance by a young Robert Downey Jr., whilst Keith Gordon puts in another decent turn as the nerd who needs to grow in confidence.
As I said, without Dangerfield, this would have come across as a very bog-standard and cheesy high school movie (even though it’s set at university). The best thing that the screenplay does is allow Dangerfield to go wild and be at his best, whilst still retaining a level of intelligence that prevents the film from descending into pure Animal House territory. but it never tells anything more than a generic high school story, with Dangerfield’s character too becoming just another student, rather than remaining the eccentric businessman character that gives the film its brilliant premise.
Overall, I enjoyed Back To School a lot. The majority of the entertainment undoubtedly comes from Rodney Dangerfield’s hilarious performance, but there are a few good points elsewhere, including a couple of solid supporting performances, and a decently-crafted screenplay, so that’s why I’m giving Back To School a 7.3.