2002 - R - 92 Mins.
|Director: Walt Becker
|Producer: Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy, Jonathon Komack Martin and Andrew Panay
|Written By: Brent Goldberg and David Wagner
|Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Tara Reid, Tim Matheson, Kal Penn and Teck Holmes
|Review by: Bill King
"Van Wilder" is someone's fantasy of how college ought to be. A guy gets a free ride, courtesy of a rich father, and squanders eight years on campus, partying and driving to classes on a golf cart, as if he was a permanent resident. That's the way Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds) would like it. In eight years, he has managed to make many friends, help people, play pranks and throw parties, and in between, slowly accumulate credits towards a degree. It's the life that I'm sure most people behind this movie would like to have (or perhaps did have).
I'm still accepting applications for the new on-campus Hooters restaurant.
National Lampoon apparently thought that modern audiences needed an updated version of "Animal House." Afterall, gross-out jokes and adult humor are all the rage right now, so what better idea than to blend the National Lampoon name with a college comedy, which would remind audiences of "Animal House" and give students a utopian version of campus life. The film even features such college movie icons as Tim Matheson ("Animal House") as Wilder's father and Curtis Armstrong ("Revenge of the Nerds") as a campus policeman.
Van Wilder has lived in the dorms for eight years, and as the film opens, he is searching for a new assistant. Basically, he needs someone to take notes for him. Taj Mahal Badalandabad (Kal Penn) measures up to Wilder's standards, and soon the two are off to party together, a ritual for Wilder but a new experience for Taj. A reporter for the college newspaper, Gwen Pearson (Tara Reid), finds Wilder interesting and wants to do a story on him. Wilder would rather date her, but she already has a boyfriend. Since when did that stop any movie protagonist?
The movie is one edgy joke after another. In this movie, we see a dog with big testicles, a hairy guy running in a race, guys eating hot dogs with a nasty ingredient and one guy who really has to use the bathroom and chooses the nearest container. The movie is a strange mixture of dirty jokes, some of which are pretty funny, and Wilder's own calm disposition. He isn't snobby or mean, but actually a nice guy who helps people have fun. He's just had too many good times in college that he doesn't want to let it all go, even if it means his father will cut off his funds.
There isn't a strong plot to drive the movie forward. We are expected to sit back and allow the film's antics to amuse us, no matter how bizarre or how gross. Many of the situations are unrealistic (I've never taken a final exam that didn't allow bathroom breaks), and the movie's attitude towards Taj is predictably stereotypic. Still, "Van Wilder" isn't all bad. I liked Ryan Reynold's low-key performance, and Tara Reid is appropriately cute as the reporter. This is the kind of film to watch on rainy days on campus, when you don't feel like leaving the dorm, and don't feel like studying.