Back To School Movie Review

Back To School

Rodney Dangerfield is going... Back to School!
Back To School Picture
Rodney Dangerfield stars as "Thornton Melon"


Rodney Dangerfield, Keith Gordon, Sally Kellerman, Adrienne Barbeau

Burt Young, M. Emmet Walsh, William Zabka, Robert Downey Jr., Paxton Whitehead, Terry Farrell, Ned Beatty, Severn Darden, Sam Kinison, Robert Picardo, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Edie McClurg, Sarah Abrell, Dana Allison, Boris Aplon, Nora Boland Update Cast


Look for J. Cynthia Brooks making a cameo appearance!

Thanks to Stephanie
Since the film, Keith Gordon (Jason Mellon) has gone on to be a successful director of independent films that include The Chocolate War, A Midnight Clear & Waking the Dead.

More Trivia from Back To School


New York City, 1940; 10-year-old Thornton Melon is being berated by his father for poor school grades.

Thornton tells his old man that he wants to work in the tailoring trade and is not bothered about school... Pop retorts with "I don't care how rich & successful a man is... he's nothing without an education"

The opening credits pictorially document the growing up of Thornton, we see that he evidently didn't listen to Pa with regard to education, but his business acumen is second-to-none; The great success of Thornton's Tall & Fat Stores attain the man huge wealth.

New York City, 1986; Thornton Melon (Dangerfield) is puffing on a cigar in the back of his limo watching the latest TV commercial for his 'hugely' successful Tall & Fat stores. The ad is hilarious, as Thornton fronts the ad like a stand up comedian... "Are you Fat? When you make love, do have to give directions? When you go to the zoo, do elephants throw you peanuts?" It's from here that the one-liners start and continue at a prolific rate for the next 96 minutes.

The fat fashion king is on the way to the annual company meeting with his obese board.

The conference is interrupted by a phone call from his son, Jason, currently away at University. Jason phoning from the locker room, tells dad, that all is cool, his grades are great, and he's on the Diving Team, while raising hell in the Fraternity... yet as the the dive team pile into the locker room, Jason has to quickly draw the conversation to a close before it becomes apparent that he merely is the towel boy!

Back in NYC, Thornton is outside his new house discussing the merits of the abode, chosen by his latest wife, with driver and bodyguard Lou (Played by Burt Young, more often seen as "Paulie" in the "Rocky" series).

Lou says, "You know, I liked your old house better... in fact I liked your old wife better" Thornton responds with "Hey, lay off Vanessa... she gives great head-ache!"

That night 'great head-ache' is throwing a fundraiser at their luxury home. Thornton is, of course, his tour de force of one-liners, cussing most of the bourgeois guests who clearly come from a snootier background than our rags to riches fat clothing king.

The scene is reminiscent of the one in 'Caddyshack' (1981) when Dangerfield waltzed through the ball at the golf club roasting all and sundry with classic, hysterical one-liners!

Unable to get a beer from the bar at the party, Thornton heads to the kitchen were he finds his wife in an embarrassing clinch with one of the waiters... his response... "Hey, Adam & Evil!".

Later that night after the party, wife cites that her husband has no class and she wants a divorce... his response... "Divorce...! I knew we had something in common!" And pulls out a prepared annulment document as well as, some Polaroid photos of Vanessa with her waiter friend... and a midget!

Now that he is divorcing his latest wife, he decides that he and Lou should pop down and surprise Jason at University and tell him the good news.

Of course upon arrival at the campus, Dad quickly discovers that his son, is not in the fraternity and only the towel boy for the dive team.

When he confronts his boy, he tells him..."Why did you lie to me Jason? You don't lie to me... you lie to girls!" Jason informs him that he wants to quit 'cause the girls don't like him, he can't get into the dive team and his grades are all C's.

Dad tries to encourage "Hey ABC... you're in the top three, what's the difference?" and has only one friend, Derek Lutz (Downey Jr.) the campus weirdo! Thornton tells his son, "You can do it... you wanna be winner? Be a winner! You wanna be a loser? Be a loser! You can do anything you want... You're a Melon!" Jason is not convinced and tells dad that he wants leave school and join the business.

Dad tells son, just as his own father told him "I don't care how rich & successful a man is... he's nothing without an education" Jason still isn't convinced, "That's easy for you to say, you don't have to do it!" With that Thornton decides that he's going back to school!

But first he has to negotiate his way into school... once the hurdle of a fifty something joining a prestigious university has been cleared... No problem a pile of money can't solve!

He sets about his new semester, raising hell, throwing the best parties, when it comes to assignment time... no problem, Thornton hires NASA professors to do his assignments, this of course antagonizes the stuffy, pretentious business lecturer... who is determined to see Thornton fail, especially as Thornton is also trying to steal his girlfriend!

Will Thornton finally attain that education his father always wanted him to have... Well I'm not telling but one thing is for sure... he's going to have a great time trying!

Author: Stuart FitzgeraldUpdate This Review


An 80's High-School movie with a different twist, Back To School is a film simply dripping with fantastic 80's culture. The clothing, hairstyles, make-up, music, sets, lingo could have only been made at the peak of the 80's...

These symbols and artefacts of the era wallpaper over the undeniable weakness in the plot.

Of course the main reason that this film is so good is down to the great Rodney Dangerfield, whose constant flow of one-liners are so funny that you forgive the film on it's weaker parts.

Although is not all Rodney's show, Robert Downey Jr. is superb as Derek Lutz the college weirdo... he changes his hairstyle for every scene that he's in the film. And I loved his analogy that American Football was in-fact a crypto-fascist metaphor for nuclear war.

The film also has a strong supporting cast including William Zabka, who plays the vanquished bully from The Karate Kid features, Burt Young, Rocky Balboa's brother-in-law and assistant trainer, M Emmet Walsh of Blade Runner takes the role of dive team coach and Ned Beatty plays Dean Martin. You also wouldn't want to miss Sam Kinison's maniacal turn as Professor Terguson!

King of the one-liners Rodney Dangerfield is superb. Great supporting cast.
Inplausible plot... does that make it a weakness? I'll let you decide.

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The Movie Data

Key Crew

Director: Alan Metter
Writer: Rodney Dangerfield, Greg Fields, Dennis Snee
Producers: Estelle Endler, Michael Endler, Harold Ramis, Chuck Russell
Locations Manager: Cass Martin, Joseph M. O'Har, Pam O'Har

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Release Date: 13 Jun 1986
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Studio: MGM/UA
Production: Paper Clip
Genre: Comedy

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The Movie Trailer
Jump To: Music & Soundtrack Vibes
1986 MGM/UA
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