Animal House (15)

John Landis's directing career tailed off in ignominy in the late Nineties, with flops such as The Stupids and Blues Brothers 2000; so it's nice to be reminded just how jauntily inventive he was to begin with.

Animal House is a self-congratulatory mess; but it's also spattered with terrific one-liners and sight gags, and it's the best showcase extant for John Belushi's subversive, attention-grabbing screen presence. I didn't much care for it first time around, but in hindsight you can see how Landis compensates for his lazy way with a story with an acute sense of period and milieu (this is America in the early Sixties, before the social revolution hits its stride). Compared with the generations of gross-out teen comedies that came after, it's a masterpiece of nuance and narrative drive.

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