Head Back to School with Rodney

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By Matt Brunson

BACK TO SCHOOL (1986)

***1/2

DIRECTED BY Alan Metter

STARS Rodney Dangerfield, Sally Kellerman

One of the brightest (and least pretentious) comedies of the past quarter-century, the 1986 box office hit Back to School is the sort of film that's easy to watch repeatedly over the years, since it's populated with endearing characters and packed with terrific one-liners.

Rodney Dangerfield, never better, stars as Thornton Melon, a self-made millionaire who returns to college to help out his struggling son (Keith Gordon). There, he spends more time partying than studying, though he does find a private tutor — and romantic interest — in English professor Diane Turner (excellent Sally Kellerman, delivering a passionate performance that makes you want to go pick up a literary classic right away).

Rodney's quips never grow stale ("The football team at my high school — they were tough. After they sacked the quarterback, they went after his family"), but while he could easily qualify as the whole show, he's backed by reliable actors in colorful roles (including Robert Downey, Jr. as Gordon's anarchist roommate and Ned Beatty as the college dean called — wait for it — Dean Martin). Look for film composer Danny Elfman (Batman, Men In Black) back in his days fronting the band Oingo Boingo; they play their hit "Dead Man's Party" in the party sequence. And don't miss that priceless cameo by Kurt Vonnegut!

(Back to School will be screened as part of the Cult Movie Monday Series at 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 30, at Actor's Theatre, 650 E. Stonewall St. Admission and popcorn are free; a cash bar is also available.)


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