Following the success of Animal House (1978), which was associated with National Lampoon, another venerable humor publication saw its brand attached to a lowbrow comedy about kids making mischief. Yet while Animal House benefited from a clever script, an ingenious director, and a strong cast, the Mad magazine movie, Up the Academy, sprang from a terrible script, a presumably uninterested director, and a weak cast. Instead of the outrageous food fights and panty raids and toga parties of Animal House, this lifeless dud includes offensively stupid vignettes of flatulence, homophobia, stereotypes, and so forth. Admittedly, Mad’s comic strips and movie satires were never avatars of sophistication, but there’s infinitely more wit inside a single panel of, say, Spy vs. Spy than there is in all 87 interminable minutes of Up the Academy. As the title suggests, the picture takes place at a military academy, where several ne’er-do-well boys—all of whom have been sent to the school as punishment for misbehavior—clash with the institution’s demented commander, Major Liceman (Ron Leibman). Per the Animal House playbook, the punks split their time between chasing girls, partying, and scheming against their sworn enemy. The movie’s dimwitted tone is set right in the first scene, a riff on the famous opening of Patton, because the punchline of the first scene is a loud gaseous emission. Similarly, the scenes with weapons instructor Bliss (played by former Bond girl Barbara Bach) are beyond tacky. Wearing a shirt open to the navel, Bliss gives sexualized descriptions of weapons while stroking phallic objects including missile casings. Meanwhile, the boys in her classroom moan and squirm, and when a clueless student tries to ask a relevant question, his neighbor says, “Shut up—some of us are trying to come.” Yep, that’s what passes for a joke in these here parts. Overseeing this unfunny business is director Robert Downey Sr., a long way from his bold avant-garde movies of the ’60s and ’70s. One hopes he was paid well for demolishing his credibility.
Up the Academy: LAME