Monday, 7 October 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1978: John Vernon in Animal House

John Vernon did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dean Vernon Wormer in National Lampoon's Animal House.

I have to be honest National Lampoon's Animal House is a film I just don't find all that funny. There are funny parts sure, but as whole I just did not laugh all that much. Also some of the performance namely those given by Peter Riegert and Tim Matheson are pretty charmless.

The character of the man of power who hates our "favorite" wacky characters is a very common occurrence in comedies of this type. These characters are usually not very funny like Ted Knight in Caddyshack who was just rather dull as he kind of sorta tries to be funny while being angry. John Vernon as Dean Wormer though is a rarity in that he is not only funny but actually the funniest part of this film. John Vernon who was no stranger to playing authority figures takes on Dean Wormer with, oddly enough, even more conviction then his performances as such characters in serious films like the mayor in Dirty Harry for example.

John Vernon plays the role of Dean Wormer as evil very determined villain that could almost be transferred to a dramatic film without much trouble. Vernon though does know what film he is in but plays the Dean as if the loutish behavior of Delta house is the worst thing possible and must be stopped with extreme prejudice. Vernon's approach is absolutely perfect as he gives such a passionate performance in portraying the unending hatred that the Dean feels toward Delta house which makes him do whatever he can to end their existence at his college.

Vernon is hilarious because of how seriously he plays the part. He never takes time to ham it up, as these roles are usually played, instead he stays steadfast in his portrayal of the Dean's disgust of Delta house. Every scene with Vernon is treat because of his fervent portrayal of the Dean that is always funny because of Vernon intensity which does not cease ever during his film. One particularly enjoyable scene is when he visits the Deltas to tell them about their secret double probation. A fairly over the top evil theme plays which completely goes along with Vernon brilliantly dark way of playing the Dean.

John Vernon very best scene though is when he calls in the Deltas and tells each of them their GPAs and the fact that not only will they be expelled but the Dean has purposefully told their local draft boards they are ready for military service. Vernon is comedic gold in the scene as he shows such a sadistic pleasure when delivering his final judgment against the slackers of the Delta house. The scene, at least on the Dean's end, does not have necessarily funny about it in terms of his lines. What makes the scene is entirely Vernon's performance which is so humorously extreme in his portrayal of the Dean's satisfaction of finally getting the Deltas where he wants them.

The part of Dean Wormer very well could have been the way the part of the uptight authority figure is usually portrayed in this type of film which is always rather boring and often times the worst part of the film. John Vernon though manages to actually be the best part of his film through his determined performance as the hate filled Dean, and shows how parts of this nature should be played. John Vernon gives a brilliant performance by going all the way with the part of the Dean, by taking the part from more then just an angry man to a man consumed with an obsessive hate which allows him the greatest of pleasures from even the slightest victories.

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