Picks and Pans Review: Old School

updated 03/03/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/03/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Juliette Lewis

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This most excellent comedy takes the old Animal House blueprint and builds on it using newer, better materials. Start with a framework of cheerful grossout humor along the Farrelly Brothers' model. Shingle it over with nail-sharp jokes, the sort perfected by our great architect of sarcastic irony, Dave Letterman. Then lease the thing out to an ensemble of crack performers: from Ferrell, as a beer-guzzler known as Frank the Tank, to mullet-headed Seann William Scott, as an animal handler who bullies miniature ponies. Can you say "party"?

Oh, the cornerstone—the plot: When a newly single lawyer (Wilson) moves into a rental on the edge of campus, his bored married buddy (Vaughn, who rivals Bill Murray at playing fatuous sleazeballs) convinces him to open a frat for bodies that are not necessarily students. One of them, an octogenarian, has an inspiredly nutty moment singing "Dust in the Wind." (R)

BOTTOM LINE: Cheers!

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