“I don’t care how rich and successful a man is.he’s nothing without an education.” Some would think that these words are from a prodigious author or a famous man of business.But interestingly enough, these are the words of wisdom given to a young Thornton Melon by his father when he asks to work in the tailoring business and forgo his own education.
This is the setup to one of the most funny and unique movies produced in the 1980s.
The film begins with comedian Rodney Dangerfield playing the role of Thornton Melon, a successful businessman who owns a line of clothing stores for the larger- sized man.
After getting a call from his son Jason, played by Keith Gordon, who says that everything is fine at school, even though it’s not, he decides to go down and surprise him after a divorce with his wife.
After learning that Jason is not the star of the diving team or the lady’s man on campus, he is disheartened by the notion that Jason doesn’t believe he can make it. Thornton decides to earn his business degree with him.
This begins the chain of events that are filled with humorous one-liners and the wacky antics of Thornton Melon.
From turning an entire dormitory into a luxury condo to hiring Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. to help with his writing assignments, there is nothing that can’t be bought in Thornton’s mind. This of course leads to the many troubles that he later encounters.
Dangerfield is hilariously obnoxious as Thornton Melon. His over-the-top style of delivery along with his down-to-earth attitude truly solidifies his character.
But when it comes to the more hilarious moments of the film, comedian Sam Kinison steals the show with his portrayal of Professor Terguson, a former Vietnam veteran turned American history professor.
Dr. Phillip Barbay, played by Paxton Whitehead, is Thornton’s business professor. He portrays the typical intellectual, elite- minded professor who believes he knows all about the business world.
After witnessing the dean accepting Thornton’s bribes in getting into the college, he is repulsed and determined to see him out.
The classroom scene between Whitehead and Dangerfield on how a company is built and maintained from the ground up is not only amusing, but quite intriguing in how both “textbook knowledge” and “real world experience” is tested between the two characters.
Meanwhile, Thornton becomes enchanted by Dr. Diane Turner, played by Sally Kellerman,.who works very well with Dangerfield on-screen.
Both actors help you to believe that a real relationship is forming between them.
While the formula of this kind of movie may seem to be commonplace today, it is still a funny and meaningful story of a father and son bonding in the most unlikely of settings.
The actors do a fantastic job of having fun with their roles. This is especially true of Jason’s goofy friend Derek Lutz, played by Robert Downey, Jr. His portrayal of the college weirdo is not only amusing but charming as well.
Even with the film echoing of a few decades past, it still manages to capture a real feeling of college life.
From the occasional wild party on campus to studying into the wee hours of the morning, the college experience in the film still holds up today.
While the story can be quite ridiculous, it should only be taken with a grain of salt. The film knows what it is and has fun just being a crazy ride with an eccentric millionaire father concerned for his unconfident son.
With a very solid cast and funny antics, it is the perfect way to welcome the new college semester.
Patrick Viesti is a fourth year student at West Chester University, majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at PV682167@wcupa.edu.