A rich, obnoxious businessman decides to enroll in his
son's college as a freshman in order to help his son succeed.
Back to School (1986)
Directed by Alan Metter
Written by Steven Kampmann, William Porter,
PJ Torokvei, Harold Ramis
Starring Rodney Dangerfield, Keith Gordon, Sally Kellerman,
Burt Young, Robert Downey Jr., Paxton Whitehead, Ned Beatty, William Zabka, Terry Farrell, Adrienne Barbeau, Sam Kinison
One of the best moments in 1980s comedy is the ending of Back to School, where Rodney Dangerfield winks at the camera with a thumbs up while Aretha Franklin's "Respect" starts up. Roll credits. Dangerfield knew how to entertain, with the dumbest one-liner jokes and the craziest facial expressions. He famously declared "I don't get no respect!" as part of his routine, and even as the character of rich business tycoon Thornton Melon, he still got no respect. Back to School is one of his funniest movies, and it employs such a simple but absurd premise, not to mention a fully-stacked cast of 80s character actors and future superstars.
Thornton Melon (Dangerfield) is the obnoxious but lovable owner and founder of Tall & Fat, a plus size clothing boutique. His son Jason (Gordon) wants to make it on his own, but his first year of college isn't going so great. His only friend is his weird, anarchist roommate Derek (Downey Jr.) and the girl he's in love doesn't even know he exists. When Thornton makes a surprise visit and realizes his son is discouraged, he decides to enroll as a freshman himself so he can help his son find his way. Of course, this results in your typical 80s hijinks and a feud with a prickly economic professor (Whitehead). There's a few sexist moments that you regrettably see quite a lot of in 80s comedies, but overall, it could be worse.
For me, the standout scene features aggressively loud comic Sam Kinison as a contemporary history professor screaming in a student's face about Vietnam. Kinison was Dangerfield's discovery, and his presence here just makes this one more memorable. Back to School is a hilarious 80s comedy that mostly holds up today, if only because of Dangerfield's impressive collection of one-liners. "With the shape I'm in you could donate my body to science fiction." That's just gold.