When Disney purchased 20th Century Fox a few months back, all sorts of different reactions hit the internet. Many were thrilled about the possibility of seeing X-Men and The Fantastic Four join the MCU. There were others, though, who started talking about how this would be the end of R-rated content coming from Fox. This despite the fact that Disney has been releasing R-rated films since 1986 through various subsidiaries they have owned like Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Dimension Films and Miramax. The mouse is no stranger to material that is less than family-friendly. Case in point, this 2002 cross-dressing college comedy, Sorority Boys.
The film follows three members of the Kappa Omicron Kappa fraternity (aka KOK), Dave (Barry Watson), Adam (Micahel Rosenbaum) and Doofer (Harland Williams). These guys are in charge of the social committee for the frat, which means they are the keepers of a large sum of money set aside for a big party on a yacht. However, they get ejected from the house when the money goes missing. The boys are sure the dough was swiped by their rival, Spence (Brady Beyer), but how do they prove it? Well, it turns out the safe the money was kept in was right next to Adam’s bed…and he happens to have a hidden video system set up for, well you know, special occasions. So, to get the tape of the robbery, the boys dress up as girls and try to sneak in to KOK’s next party.
The plan goes awry, though, when the girls are kicked out of the party for being too ugly. This lands them on the steps of the sorority across the street, Delta Omicron Gamma (or DOG), which is the place where all the outcast girls pledge. Our heroes are taken in with Dave becoming Daisy, Adam now Adina, and Doofer as Roberta. Kind of like in the old Tom Hanks sitcom Bosom Buddies, the guys spend their days as men, attending their classes, but their nights as ladies living in the sorority house. All the while they are plotting how to get the evidence they need to clear their names. Of course, at the same time, Dave starts to fall for the leader of the DOG sorority, Leah (Melissa Sagemiller).
2002 feels really late in the game for a comedy like this to have been released. I could see this film coming out sometime around 1983, in the aftermath of both Porky’s (81) and Tootsie (82) being hits. Ultimately, the film is really about three dudes that are kind of sucky as men, but turn into much better human beings after living as women for a while. Still, there’s a lot of gross out humor along the way and a lot of things that don’t play well in the #metoo era. From roofies to secret video cameras aimed at beds to dildos being launched through the sorority house windows…it’s all here. Most of it is not terribly funny and just makes the viewer feel uncomfortable. A shower sequence in which a piece of the male anatomy is only slightly concealed by soap suds comes in as the worst offender. While the attempts at crude humor come across as quite labored, there were a fair share of moments that earned some legitimate laughter. Like many films before it, Sorority Boys tries too hard to create moments of gross-out humor while not even realizing that its tamer moments are actually succeeding and being somewhat funny.
However, there is still a degree of heart to this film that makes it not a complete loss. Barry Watson is slightly charming as both Dave and Daisy, and the chemistry he has with Melissa Sagemiller is legit. Michael Rosenbaum is also solid in the jerk-best-friend roll, and I’ve always found Harland Williams’ awkward comedic approach to be quite funny. The three leads also play very well off of the various girls who make up the sorority, which include Heather Matarazzo (of The Princess Diaries and Welcome to the Dollhouse fame). The girls of DOG are definitely a sort of female riff on the Lambda Lambda Lambda’s of Revenge of the Nerds. I wish more of the film had centered on them than our three frat boys.
This is the only film to date directed by Wally Wolodarsky, who’s biggest claim to fame is probably as a writer on a number of well-regarded early episodes of The Simpsons. He’s clearly going for an Animal House type of vibe. Heck, he even cast several vets from the John Landis classic in small parts here. Keep your eyes open for James Daughton, John Vernon, Steven Furst, and Mark Metcalf. Very few of the films inspired by Animal House have managed to tap into what made that film work, and Sorority Boys is no exception. While much of its attempts at humor fizzle, at least it has an appealing cast that keeps it from being a complete drag.