Back to School

1986

Back to School

Critics Consensus

Back to School gives Rodney Dangerfield plenty of room to riff -- and supports the freewheeling funnyman with enough of a story to keep things interesting between punchlines.

85%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 34

68%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 33,113
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Back to School Photos

Movie Info

Self made millionaire (Dangerfield) but down to Earth dad decides to get his college degree to keep his son in college. Dangerfield's wild ways make college life ever more difficult for his son but they both teach each other a few things.

Cast

Rodney Dangerfield
as Thornton Melon
Sally Kellerman
as Dr. Diane Turner
Keith Gordon
as Jason Melon
Paxton Whitehead
as Philip Barbay
M. Emmet Walsh
as Coach Turnbull
Ned Beatty
as Dean Martin
Severn Darden
as Dr. Barazini
Sam Kinison
as Prof. Terguson
Sarah Abrell
as Sorority Girl
Dana Allison
as Young Woman
Boris Aplon
as Tony Meloni
Kimberlin Ann Brown
as Girl in Dorm Hallway
Bob Drew
as Contractor
Holly Hayes
as Girl in the Crowd
Jason Hervey
as Young Thornton
Santos Morales
as Bartender
Beth Peters
as Mrs. Stuyvesant
Phil Rubenstein
as Executive
John Young
as Executive
Tim Stack
as Trendy Man
Steve Sweeney
as Security Guard
Stacey Toten
as Hot Tub Girl
Becky LeBeau
as Hot Tub Girl
William Grauer
as Drunken Student
Tricia Hill
as Lisa's Friend
Jill D. Merin
as Girl at Dorm Party
John James
as Man in Stands
Kristen Aldrich
as Student in Diane's Class
Eric Alver
as Student at Fraternity Party
John William James
as Man in Stands
Curtis Stone
as 'Twist & Shout' Band
Danny Elfman
as Oingo Boingo Band Member
Josh Saylor
as Student in Diane's Class
Kirsten Aldrich
as Student in Diane's Class
View All

News & Interviews for Back to School

Critic Reviews for Back to School

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (29) | Rotten (5)

Audience Reviews for Back to School

  • Jul 29, 2018
    Look, I'm gonna be brutally honest, and this might upset some people, but Rodney Dangerfield is not a very good comedic actor. That's just the truth of it. Of course, I'm not talking about how he is as a comedian because, honestly, I don't know much about his act. But, essentially, this movie is Rodney Dangerfield being Rodney Dangerfield. It's the only role he knows how to play and that's what he was comfortable doing and there's not a problem with that. But, once again, as an actor, he was really fucking bad. I think he'd be the first to tell you that he wasn't good. Having said that, the man does have a lot of charisma and presence. If there's ever been someone who resembles a one-liner dispenser, Rodney Dangerfield would be the closest person who comes to that. But, and this bears repeating, the guy is not a good actor. I think the thing about the guy is that, in my opinion, he was better off being a secondary character that you only take in small doses. Because, in small doses, Rodney's one-liners can be wildly entertaining. That's why his appearance in Caddyshack was so successful, he wasn't a major character and he only appeared in when he was needed. Caddyshack was the movie that, essentially, gave his career the surge it needed during the 80s. He wasn't is as high demand as I would have expected during this era, as post-Caddyshack, he only appeared in 2 major movies, Easy Money and this one. He had an uncredited appearance in Moving (with Richard Pryor) as a loan broker. But I don't feel like that should count. Maybe his TV appearances during the 80s were far more numerous. Regardless, having said that, I think your enjoyment of the movie relies solely on the fact on how much you can tolerate Dangerfield's shtick for 90+ minutes. Look, I'm not saying that the guy didn't have some good one-liners here, because that would be a lie, it's just the fact that his shtick is really the same joke with slight variations over and over and over again. But after the tenth time of hearing the same joke, it gets tiring. I do think the movie does a good job at sprinkling enough side stuff to where Rodney's shtick isn't always the focus of everything, but it's not like they could still avoid that tiring factor. Funny thing is that when I was thinking about Rodney Dangerfield, while I was watching this movie, I was like 'at least he's not Sam Kinison'. Shortly afterwards, here comes Sam Kinison with a little appearance as the history teacher. Now Sam Kinison is a guy I have never found funny. I just think his gimmick of constantly yelling disguised the fact that, really, he wasn't a very funny guy. Same thing with Dangerfield, though, in that Sam definitely has a larger-than-life personality and presence. I mean, with the guy constantly yelling in your ear, he'd almost have to draw attention to himself. But I just never found him funny or entertaining. He was just annoying. But, and once again like Dangerfield, in small, contained and tightly-scripted doses, I think his gimmick could work. And, surprisingly, his cameo as a quick to anger history teacher works within this context. It's probably the funniest thing in the entire movie. So, honestly, this surprises me from a man I've always thought was unfunny. That's not to say that I am gonna seek out his comedy specials because, again, I just mentioned that it's better in small doses. Regardless, it's an enjoyable appearance nonetheless. This is very much an 80s movie in look, style, music (duh), fashion, Burt Young, etc, etc, etc. I think that adds a little bit to the proceedings. Do I really need to go over the narrative? Rodney Dangerfield, a successful businessman, buys his way into this college after his son threatens to drop out. Hilarity ensues? That's all you need and that's all this movie really even cares to do with its narrative. Thornton (Rodney) pays off his employees in order to do his reports for him, he slacks off, he parties, he has sex with one of his teachers, which is interesting in that could be lead to a conflict of interest or favoritism, but that is never explored in the slightest. Nothing is mentioned about the ethics of this either too, which shouldn't surprise me. Thing is that they're not even having a secret relationship, pretty much everyone knows about it. It's just odd. I guess I shouldn't think about it too much, it's a goofy comedy starring Rodney Dangerfield, it's not a Daniel Day-Lewis drama. Diving is a big part of the movie, the climax is this big triple lindy dive, you've probably seen the scene where Thornton jumps from diving board to diving board in a preposterous scene. Well, the diving sections are really bad. Not bad because they're poorly shot or anything, just because of the fact that the divers do not resemble the people they're actually playing. Early on, Dangerfield does a dive and they film the diver from behind and this fucker had a piece on that went flying upwards (it didn't fall off) as he was diving into the pool. It's laughable because you can see parts of his bald spot, yet Rodney Dangerfield isn't bald. Couldn't you literally find anyone else with hair and just color their hair like Rodney's??? Is that too difficult? William Zabka, perennial 80s douchebag, plays perennial 80s douchebag here and, once again, his dive scenes are met with some really bad wigs. Just, in general, the dive meets which, as I mentioned, are a big part of the movie and its ending, leads to some unintentionally bad (and hilarious) moments. Let's see, what else am I forgetting? Oh yea, there's a completely unbelievable romance between Valerie and Jason (Thornton's son), because why not? Every 80s movie like this needs some sort of romance, and why not take someone who's as plain as the paint on my white wall, Keith Gordon, and match him up with gorgeous Terry Farrell. I suppose that's not fair to say, because the unbelievable part isn't that Valerie is way out of Jason's league, it's just everything else. They spend very little time together, they don't talk much and, at the end of the movie, they reveal they're in love with each other. What??? Could you MAYBE have put in a little bit more effort than that, my dudes??? Is that too hard to do? Or did having to go back and rely on Dangerfield's shtick get in the way too much? I don't know, perhaps I'm being unfair. Even with all of that, I still found this be a pretty decent little movie. It's not like it's bad in the slightest, but I just didn't find myself laughing at much of what's going on here. This was just an outlet for Rodney Dangerfield to do his shtick and everything else was written around that. As much as I'm down on Dangerfield's repetitive humor, this was still a perfectly decent movie. It's not good, but it's decent. Others who enjoy his style of comedy will like this far more than I did. And that's perfectly fine with me, everyone deserves to have a movie that's catered specifically to them. This wasn't for me, but I didn't entirely hate my time with it either.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Sep 10, 2011
    Rodney Dangerfield is one of the greatest stand up comedians ever. His timing and delivery are simply perfect. This films shows that he also had some great acting talent. Nothing that pushes him too far, but certainly enough to propel the story along. Dangerfield decides to attend his son's college to help his son through the hard times. Obviously they each learn a little about each other along the way. There are many sequences and characters you will be familiar with, but Dangerfield is particularly lovable. He's supported by a strong supporting cast. The best moments are when Dangerfield proves himself as more than just a one-liner comedian.
    Luke B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 23, 2011
    Rodney Dangerfield at the top of his game, giving out laughs and a heartfelt father/son story. The premise is hilarious in itself, but the execution of it is what really makes it great. Kieth Gordon is a great straight man to the very lively and over the top nature of his onscreen father. Robert Downey Jr. also plays a pretty hilarious rendition of Robert Smith going to college part time. I like how this criticizes the the college experiences as well as romanticizing it.
    Conner R Super Reviewer
  • Sep 11, 2010
    I hadn’t seen this movie in 5+ years and caught it the other day. The arc really does a good job of reminding me of the transition from under you parents wing where a first there idiots when you in your late teens and when you move out to college or just alone and you develop a greater understanding of who they are. Dangerfield’s self effacing comedic style once unique too him is now standard fare in the comedic world I am biased on this film, it was filmed at my alma mater UW-Madison. Oingo Boingo one of my favorite 1 hit wonders plays there hit in the party scene and a young Robert Downey Jr plays the comic relief before he makes his series of public service announcement type movies. Well ahead of its time Lorretta Switt from MASH 1976, easily in her 40’s plays Dangerfeild’s Love interest. Try to find another movie before 1995 that casts a woman in her forties as a love interest. If you loved Caddy shack I will guaranty you will find this at least very amusing.
    Bill C Super Reviewer

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