Continuing my list for movies to be enjoyed when preparing to return to either work or school. Today’s flick is the appropriately titled “Back to School” (1986), in which Rodney Dangerfield plays a entrepreneur for a business that caters for slightly broader people, does exactly that!
Thornton Melon (Dangerfield) has made his fortune by setting up “Tall and Fat”, a clothing store, despite having never attended college, nor obtained a degree. After he divorces his gold digging second wife, Vanessa (Adrienne Barbeau) after catching her cheating, Thornton visits his college age son, Jason (Keith Gordon). Thornton has been under the impression that Jason is the star of the diving team. Surprise, surprise, he discovers that this is not the case- Jason is the towel boy of the team, who is often tormented by the real swim team leader, Chas (William Zappka, carrying on the schtick of the bullying jock from “The Karate Kid”), and wants to drop out altogether.
In a bid to convince Jason to stay in college, Thornton elects to enroll in the same college. Naturally, he solves the problem of having no prior diplomas by throwing money at it- i.e. donating a building to the campus. This earns him an instant nemesis with Philip Barbay (Paxton Whitehead). As Thornton parties and wisecracks his way through college, Jason grows all the more exasperated by his dad’s antics. But with the help of Jason and his literature professor Diane, (Sally Kellerman), Thornton may just pass the class!
“Back to School” was the first Rodney Dangerfield movie I’d ever watched, so I was unused to Dangerfield’s comedic quips and sometimes crude humour. However, I gradually warmed to his character as the movie went on, so ultimately I had no choice but to like Thornton, for all his faults, he proves to be well-meaning.
The supporting cast help make the flick watchable, from Robert Downey Junior as Jason’s offbeat best friend, to Edie McClurg as Thornton’s secretary, Marge (despite the fact that she only appears in one scene!) In addition, author Kurt Vonnegut cameos as himself, when Thornton ropes him in to write an essay on his own book “Slaughterhouse 5”, with humorous consequences!
In conclusion, “Back to School” may not be the best movie there is about college, but it delivers the laughs, which is what you’d expect from a Rodney Dangerfield comedy. It’s for this reason that this flick receives three and a half stars from me!