If there is anything to the comparison of a musical vocalist and a stand-up comedian, certainly there is the matter of an equal sense of internal rhythm and cadence of delivery in defining one’s signatory style. For a case in point, one need look no further than Mr. Rodney Dangerfield, who is the living embodiment of a comedic scat jazz singer, a quality which informs his leading presence in the scattered and undisciplined but often very funny “Back to School”, a film which gently celebrates know-how, perseverance and “smarts”, though not necessarily of the institutionally acquired variety (the irony of the title is only one of the film’s many subtle jests). Dangerfield plays Thornton Melon (shortened from Meloni) who has amassed a fortune with his chain of Tall & Fat clothing stores (what are the odds that this will initiate a spate of fat jokes?) but is nonetheless demonstrably dismissed as unworthy by those outside his sphere of influence (rather than the have and have-nots, the film’s universe seems wisely divided between those who are able to have fun and those who are not), though most succumb to his raucously achieved charm, as Dangerfield- despite his initially vulgar idiosyncrasies -is a real pussycat; not because he believes he can buy friends and influence (except for one telling sequence where he gains admission to the college by greasing the hands of the not-so-idealistic school’s Dean Martin [Ned Beatty]), but because he truly likes people and he’s simply enjoying himself.
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