Producer Simmons offers little insight into beloved comedy
I’ve seen National Lampoon’s Animal House and director John Landis’ other John Belushi-starring work of brilliance, The Blues Brothers, more times than all the other movies on my DVD shelves combined. It’s a comedy that’s repeatedly called “tasteless,” but just as frequently gets noted for its sweetness and its heart.
Matty Simmons has a unique perspective on Animal House, being one of the founders of National Lampoon and producer of that brand’s long line of popular movies, including their first, which is the subject of his new book. Entitled Fat, Drunk, and Stupid: The Inside Story Behind the Making of Animal House, the book (out next Tuesday from St. Martin’s Press) presents a wonderfully pleasant tale of the road to one of the most popular and well-regarded comedies of all time.
Simmons’ book has an accurate title, although one grabbing it off the shelf will likely misinterpret its meaning. The “making” of Animal House is just as much about the producing, script-writing, casting, promotion, and critical response to the film as it is about the actual filming. That “making” gets a chapter or two, with the bulk of the slim volume devoted to the rest.
Even at less than 230 pages, Fat, Drunk, and Stupid could’ve been pared down even further. Simmons freqeuently quotes from other books on and reviews of the film, rather than relating more of his personal anecdotes regarding the film. It’s surprising that the author devotes almost as much time to Delta House, the short-lived television program based on the film, as he does to the actual shooting of the movie.
There are some dynamite bits in Simmons’ book – a recounting of scenes that were cut from the film and script, for instance, recounts tantalizing lost segments that could’ve been. The casting process is an illuminating look into how they tracked down their preferred cast of unknowns. Insider details such as these are unfortunately canceled out by a remarkably uneven chapters. The “where are they now?” segment at the end is just one such example, offering as it does either third-party accounts summarized from IMDB pages or what seems like the actors recounting their CV.
That’s the gist of Fat, Drunk, and Stupid – the book is entertaining, and a fast reader will kill it in a weekend, but there’s not a lot of depth to the story. What insider details Simmons brings to the table are almost completely eclipsed by details and research any other person could’ve dug up following the citations on the Animal House Wiki page.