Box Sets that compile older titles usually just make me cringe. Think about it. Recycled discs, tired old movies, and a fancy somewhat new box cover. In other words, I get to sleep for 4-5 hours and then wake up in a cold sweat wondering what happened. Alright; so that just sounds like my first honeymoon. Anyway, I happened to get the Partying 101 Boxset (because I am a wild and crazy guy) which featured Bio-Dome, Back to School and PCU. These are the old MGM discs from 8 to 10 years ago. Be afraid.
Bio-Dome is the story of two losers ala Bud (played by Pauly Shore) and Doyle (played by Stephen Baldwin) who are wasting away in their life and not being very eco-friendly. Their girlfriends who are more than eco-conscious try to convince them to turn over a new leaf. Soon, Bud and Doyle find themselves trapped in the new and ecological utopian Bio-Dome after one of them has to find somewhere to take a piss (I’m not making this up). For the next year they are trapped in this bubble with other scientists studying the effects. Well actually Bud and Doyle just cause mayhem and the scientists pick up after them. Of course they have a moment and a happy ending. Of course, I also have a gag reflex.
Back to School is the story of Thornton Melon (played by Rodney Dangerfield) who decides to attend the University that his son Jason (played by Keith Gordon) does after his son threatens to drop out since he can’t make the diving team nor get ahead in school. This leads to all sorts of hilarity as Thornton pays people to do his homework and makes the dorm room into a plush suite. This opens the doors to numerous famous co-stars from Robert Downey Jr (as Derek) to Sally Kellerman (as Dr. Diane Turner) to numerous cameos from Sam Kinison (as a history professor, genius) to Ned Beatty (squeal like a pig boy!). The humor is top notch and Rodney is in rare form.
The final tale, PCU is the story of Tom Lawrence (played by Chris Young), a pre-fresh who visits Port Chester University. There he finds “The Pit” a former frat house (frats were outlawed in the 60’s) that is inhabited by a rowdy group of college goers. Headed up by James “Droz” Andrews (played by Jeremy Piven), he explains to the young Tom all about college life and how you have to be Politically Correct (get it, PC…PCU, ha I kill myself!). Droz unfortunately has problems of his own as he needs to raise $7,500 and change due to numerous damages and complaints that his house has caused. If he doesn’t, the house will be assumed by a group of young republicans headed by Rand McPherson (played by David Spade) who used to be Droz’s freshman roommate. This leads to the formation of an epic party where they try to collect money and cause much hijinx.
Box sets as explained before make me cringe. The first title, Bio-Dome is just horrible. Pauly Shore should never be on a milk carton nevermind top billing in a movie. If I had actually taken drugs in high school or college, I would swear this is a bad acid trip. The only thing that interested me what so ever is Pauly’s girlfriend in the movie Monique who was played by Joey Adams, one of the most adorable females during my teenage years. That’s it, a hot female; because this movie sure doesn’t have anything else. The second, Back to School is a decent movie but extremely dated as the late Rodney throws his money around in a way that would make Donald Trump blush. It’s fun sure, but when Rodney explains that he bribes officials and provides kickbacks to Unions, the humor doesn’t translate well to today’s atmosphere.
The final movie, PCU is the gem in the bunch. The movie did horribly in theaters, but has developed a cult following in video. Jeremy Priven is ahead of his time and we saw the initial blossoming of David Spade into a talented (but sometimes annoying) comedic actor. It is also highlighted in the music department with a cameo from George Clinton and a soundtrack from guitar god Steve Vai. There is even a cover of the Elvis Costello tune “Pump it Up” performed by Mudhoney. I also like the fact that all of the actors & actresses felt equal and no one person outweighed the others.
The video is varied but all three titles offer 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Back to School and PCU also offer Full Screen presentations). However, they also vary on quality. Bio-Dome looks okay, Back to School looks horrid (old Superman cartoons probably suffer from less pixilation) and PCU is certainly the best of the bunch. PCU is the only one in my opinion that actually looks cleaned up and not taken from a VHS master.
Again, varied varied varied. Bio-Dome has 5.1 English, 2.0 French and a 2.0 Spanish track. Back to School supports similar options in a 5.1 English, 2.0 French and an 1.0 Spanish track. PCU gets no French and finishes up with a 2.0 English and a 2.0 Spanish track. Oddly enough, the 2.0 track in PCU is almost just as good as the weak Bio-Dome and Back to School 5.1 tracks. There are surround effects to be had here but they are all very average at best. Subs are provided in English and Spanish for all three while Bio-Dome and Back to School gets subtitles in French as well.
- Original Theatrical Trailer: I’m thrilled, really.
Back to School
- Original Theatrical Trailer: Again, wait for it…I’m thrilled.
- Audio Commentary by Director Hart Bochner : One of two commentaries on this disc. This is more of the director’s point of view naturally and he goes over production and says how the film is really a cult hit today and how he wishes he could have done more. This makes sense since it has a PG-13 rating and clearly should have gone for the R rating in language and drug content. We also find out that Adam Sandler and John Stamos read for the Droz part. That is scary folks.
- Audio Commentary by Jeremy Priven (“Droz”) : The other commentary; this is a more personal and lighter affair. Jeremy seems to spend most of his time wishing he was able to ad lib or improv certain scenes. It’s almost whiney (though he is a very interesting and personable guy). He points out the times he was allowed to ad lib (“Don’t Be that Guy”) and collaborate. A good contrast and comparison to the director’s commentary.
- Behind the Scenes Featurette 5:54 : This is more of a spoof commercial for Port Chester University followed by about a minute of behind the scenes stuff. Basically a quick bumper for the movie and show probably at the end of some primetime shows to get publicity for the movie.
- Music Video: Pump it Up by Mudhoney 3:16: The cover isn’t half bad; the video is five shades of horrifying.
- Original Theatrical Trailer: Guess what, I’m still thrilled.
The sad fact about this boxset is that it feels so cheap yet they feel the need to charge $20+ for the three discs and the flimsy box. The discs aren’t even slim-cased and are put in their original cases causing an eye-sore on your display. If they had used slim cases and put Bio-Dome and Back to School (drop the fullscreen) on one disc and dedicated the other one to PCU, I’d probably be praising the overall package. Especially if it was priced at under $15. These are the old discs and age has not been kind, in particular to Back to School and Bio-Dome. Video and Audio is passable and the extras (with the exception of PCU) are downright laughable. My honest suggestion is to buy PCU by itself (can be acquired for probably $5-$6) and if you really do like Back to School (understandable), go purchase the Extra-Curricular Edition with better video and extras. Avoid Bio-Dome at all costs, even if you do have a thing for Joey Adams. Go watch her in Chasing Amy or somewhere else where you can appreciate her fine form. For myself, I will be thankful that I finally got to see PCU and will be viewing that one in times to come. May Bio-Dome and this copy of Back to School serve as door-prizes at a bad dvd viewing party near you.
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