Van Wilder (2002) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for strong sexual content, gross humor, language, and some drug content
Running Time: 92 min.
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Tara Reid, Kal Penn, Teck Holmes, Paul Gleason, Tim Matheson
Director: Walt Becker
Screenplay: David Wagner, Brent Goldberg
Review published July 14, 2003
For the purposes of this review, I chose to watch the unrated version of National Lampoon's Van Wilder because it's probably the version most people will opt to watch now that it's on video. Boy, did I make a mistake. I've seen quite a bit of toilet humor, barf gags, and flatulence in recent years, especially from teen comedies, but Van Wilder is quite possibly the lowest of the low in terms of how far it was willing to go. Call me a prude, but I never thought I'd see the day that a film would be released where a dog would be jacked off until his semen filled pastries, only to see a scene where a frat house eats said pastries with messy delight.
Hmmm, did I just use a spoiler? I should think it serves more as a litmus test as to whether you want to invest time and money in viewing this film. Those who laughed should be heartily entertained, while those who are gagging right now should stay away. I know I should have.
Ryan Reynolds (Buying the Cow, Foolproof) plays Van Wilder, now in his 7th year of college, not because he isn't smart enough to graduate, but because he loves to party and have fun. After his father (Matheson, Fletch) cuts off his money flow, as well as Van's constant run-ins with the faculty, he knows it just might be his last year as a student, a make-or-break proposition he regrets having to choose between. To keep the cash coming in, Van decides to throw parties for other people for money, using his notoriety to gain him quite a bit of business. All the while there is Gwen (Reid, American Pie), the reporter for the school newspaper assigned to keeping tabs on Wilder's activities, tailing him. Van doesn't much care for negative publicity, but allows her to follow him around for the true scoop, but her annoying boyfriend doesn't like Van monopolizing Gwen's time, or her interests.
Although Ryan Reynolds does give a relatively amusing performance and Walt Becker directs with competence, the film just aims too low, and the script is just too dumb to ever be good. Outside of the already mentioned dog scene, there are another handful of equally disgusting moments that will either have you chuckling or retching, depending on your level of taste for such gags. There is a level of intelligence in the casting, with such roles from previous frat party films like Tim Matheson of Animal House and Curtis Armstrong from Revenge of the Nerds. Paul Gleason plays the same kind of conniving instructor that he did in his most famous film, The Breakfast Club. Unfortunately, this also calls to mind just how bad these kinds of films have become when looking at Van Wilder as the current state of sophomoric college comedies.
I hear there's quite a bit of deleted scenes on the DVD of Van Wilder, but I can't say what's left out. I never watched them, thinking I've already watched about 90+ minutes of scenes I would have left out already. I can't imagine what wasn't deemed worthy.
Curiously, the DVD comes with everything one might want except the one essential thing: a barf bag.
-- Followed by a Reynolds-less spin-off, Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj.
©2003 Vince Leo