Luke Blackall: Curtis tips an unlikely hat to Animal House

Man About Town: The film might not have been the first of its kind, but its success made a big impression
  • @lukeblackall

The question "what's your favourite film?" is an awful one. Try it as an ice-breaker, and it can have the opposite effect, paralysing conversation as one scrambles around for a single, definitive answer.

Indeed if you're a film-lover, how can one piece stand above the rest? And you can't necessarily give the same answer every time. On a date, you might want to convey your sensitive, intelligent side. To a film buff you might to show off your esoteric knowledge of films. If you're a man on a blokes' night out, you'll pick a gangster classic rather than admitting that you "really love You've Got Mail". Or you might pick an Oscar-winner, safe in the knowledge that you have that to fall back on should your answer be questioned.

Richard Curtis, a film director who will surely soon be the bearer of the title "National Treasure", was asked to do something similar this week. To celebrate Universal Pictures' 100th birthday, he was asked to pick his favourite film from the studio's extensive back catalogue. Earlier this week he introduced that film to an audience at the Electric Cinema in, appropriately, Notting Hill.

He could have chosen an Oscar-winner such as All Quiet on the Western Front, opted for one of the Hitchcock thrillers, or a classic such as Jaws or Scarface. Instead, he went for the 1978 comedy Animal House. For those unfamiliar with the film, it tells the story of a fraternity house in a US college, who challenge authority through a combination of pranks and parties.

The film might not have been the first of its kind, but its success made a big impression. Indeed its importance can be seen with this week's release of American Reunion, the fourth big-screen instalment of the American Pie series, which owes much to Animal House.

While Animal House might have helped spawn the "gross-out" genre beloved of boys everywhere, it was also called "culturally significant" and selected for the National Film Registry by the US Library of Congress. Curtis said that by choosing it, he was standing up for the "sketch comedies" and those unsung heroes that aren't elevated to "classic" status often enough.

These might not be the award winners, and they might not be challenging in the traditional sense, but they're often the ones that bring us the most joy. And we should probably admit to their being our favourites more often.