Looking Back on ’86: Back to School

What if your father decided to go to college with you? That’s the question  Back to School asks at the audience. Rodney Dangerfield stars as Thornton Melon, the owner of a department store chain called Tall and Fat. His son Jason has enrolled into college and is not doing too well; he’s bullied, and he hardly has anyone for support. So Thornton decides to enroll himself in school to keep a closer eye on him, but also to prove that anyone can do it.

Back to School is a very funny film, with a killer performance by Dangerfield. His character is so well written and he truly throws himself at the role, making the best out of it. Dangerfield’s persona is perfect for the role, making great use of his comedic timing and voice. In many ways, this is completely his movie and he overshadows just about everyone else, but it’s hard to complain when he’s so funny. Robert Downey Jr. stands out more as supporting character Derek, Jason’s best friend. While Jason may be something of a sad sack, Derek almost lacks any dignity, embarrassing herself and those around him. There is also a brilliant cameo by Sam Kinison as a History teacher that will have you rolling on the floor. I really wish there had been more scenes with him.

One of the movie’s greatest achievements is that it feels true to the college experience, asserting its value but also poking fun at its own greed and pretentiousness. The movie doesn’t take itself seriously, and it stays grounded for the most part, but there are a couple of zany moments that feel a bit of touch with the reality of the film and its tone, but they’re there for laughs and they hit right in that spot.

Back to School is a very funny movie that seems to go under-appreciated nowadays. It doesn’t match up with the great comedy classics of the 80s, but in its own right, it’s a great way to spend two hours.

You can get Back to School on Blu-Ray here.


Oscar Moreno
Oscar Moreno
Mexican. Writer. Filmmaker. Lover of good laughs and good food.