Remembering a sophomoric night at the movies

Hollywood, MD - Time marches on but movies we see when they first arrive at the theaters and then several times after that linger in our minds. It’s hard to believe that it was 40 years ago—July 28, 1978—that “National Lampoon’s Animal House” made its debut in theaters. At least it’s hard for me to believe. I asked some of my younger coworkers if they had seen the movie and what they thought of it. One thing was certain—I am much, much older than most everybody with whom I work. One of my young coworkers was entirely unfamiliar with the movie. Some of the others just rolled their eyes as if to say, “yeah, what about it?”

I have to admit, like so many other things from the 1970s—long hair, loud clothes, disco music, leisure suits, early reruns of Saturday Night Live, cop shows, Jimmy Carter—Animal House has not impactfully stood the test of time. It certainly isn’t in the vein of something like, oh, say, The Wizard of Oz, which will turn 80 next year and likely makes many millennials’ list of favorite movies. Why is that, I wonder? Animal House also had good and wicked people, an amazing road trip, at least one character without a heart, several without brains and many who, like the Tin Woodsman, were constantly seeking lubrication. There was no dog but there was a horse. John Belushi was both a comic wizard and a pig. Donald Sutherland’s character had a clouded-by-cannabis smoke-kind of brilliance. Faber College was an enchanted world, just as Oz was, inhabited by academic Munchkins. Like Dorothy, the movie made some of us homesick. At the time, for recent college graduates like myself, Animal House was then and always will be a nostalgic tale. We realized how much we missed the theme parties, the cliques, food fights, wild dancing and being caught in an Earthly limbo—not a juvenile anymore but definitely not quite a responsible adult. When the college days ended we realized the wisdom of Dean Wormer’s words—“drunk, fat and stupid is no way to go through life.”

When the movie came out a college friend of mine who had seen it during its opening weekend described it as “sophomoric.” After I saw it I couldn’t disagree. While there would be no cheesy sequels, Animal House did spawn and inspire many similar successful movies, creating something of a genre. The success of films like “Porky’s,” “Risky Business,” “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off,” “Police Academy” and “American Pie” all drew obvious inspiration from it.

There is nothing wrong with today’s movies. The technology is amazing. Actors are better than ever. The creativity of the early 21 century’s filmmakers gives us something for which to leap out of our seats and cheer. On its comparatively spare budget, National Lampoon’s Animal House made us want to shout (just a little bit softer now). It brought a measure of joy to many of us quasi-elite, privileged baby boomers. Looking back 40 years later, for some of us, it still does. Occasionally recalling and appreciating the enjoyment from the past is not a bad way at all to go through life.

Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of management.

Contact Marty Madden at

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