***½/**** Image B+ Sound B+ Extras A
starring John Belushi, Tim Matheson, John Vernon, Verna Bloom
screenplay by Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenny & Chris Miller
directed by John Landis
by Walter Chaw Films that spawn genres are unusual, and if twenty-five years and dozens of imitators have diluted the sex and scatology formula of John Landis's National Lampoon's Animal House a bit, nothing touches the tightness of an enterprise that finds a golf ball hit into cafeteria stew in one scene and John Belushi casually eating that golf ball a few minutes later. The picture doesn't so much cover the bases as draw the diamond, casting the evil dean of a small college, Wormer (John Vernon), against a band of fun-loving frat boys led by smooth Otter (Tim Matheson), animalistic Bluto (Belushi), hapless Flounder (Stephen Furst), and audience surrogate Pinto (Tom Hulce). What distinguishes Animal House's irreverence from feckless anarchy is the same thing that distinguishes the films of the Farrelly Brothers, the true inheritors of the picture's legacy: a strong feeling for character and a congenial willingness to transgress that rings as honest even as it tickles at inappropriate.