Don't graduate. Celebrate.
A genre unto itself, the college comedy has always had a spot in the hearts of sloppy frat boys everywhere. Who do you think made National Lampoon's Animal House so popular? Well, our old friends at NL are back with yet another raunchy comedy about babes, books and beer in National Lampoon's Van Wilder! While the film wasn't a smash hit at the box office, this didn't detour the production of a two-disc set featuring an "unrated" cut of the film! Starring Ryan Reynolds (TV's Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place), Tara Reid (American Pie), Tim Matheson (TV's The West Wing), and Paul Gleason (The Breakfast Club), Van Wilder goes nuts on your DVD player care of Artisan Home Entertainment!
Facts of the Case
Some people go to college for a good education. Others go to party like there's no tomorrow. And then there's Van Wilder (Reynolds), a man so integrated into the college party lifestyle that he's a 7th-year student with an assistant (Kal Penn) to help coordinate his social life! Van's existence couldn't be sweeter—he spends his time putting together bashes, schmoozing with the ladies, and being the all around big man on campus. But Van's life is about to drastically change when his well-to-do father (Matheson) decides to pull the plug on Van's tuition checks! As Van desperately tries to figure out a way to monetarily continue his "higher" education, his smooth ways attract the journalistic eye of Gwen Person (Reid), a sultry campus reporter who is assigned to write a story of Van's wild ways. Soon Van finds himself picked apart by Gwen, who attempts to see just what lies beneath the exterior of the self-titled "Mr. Popularity." As Van starts to fall for Gwen, he finds himself in competition with her snotty fraternity boyfriend Richard (Daniel Cosgrove). It's going to take all Van's got to get the girl of his dreams and keep up his reputation as college's best kept social secret!
Remember the time when the words "National Lampoon" actually inspired laughter? That seems like a long time ago in a movie theater far, far away. The last film I saw with NL's stamp of approval on it was the almost jaw-droppingly abysmal National Lampoon's Senior Trip. Talk about a swift and painful kick to a moviegoer's gonads.
I didn't expect to like this movie even one iota. National Lampoon's Van Wilder had everything going against it—star Ryan Reynolds (that TV show he was on sucked), Tara Reid (is there any actress as vacuous as the bubble-headed blonde?) and what appeared to be a plethora of fart/sperm/urine/poop/boob/pubic hair jokes. As many readers already know, I am not a fan of any movie that attempts to use squirting diarrhea as a substitute for clever writing and acting. And so it was with a great deal of confusion that I ended up actually like Van Wilder. Yes, Van Wilder features some pretty crude jokes about dog testicles, the digestion of sperm, and the every funny "taking a really, really important exam when there's no bathroom break allowed after drinking too much Ex-Lax" gag. And yet I laughed heartily at many of these jokes, each one stupider than the next. Could it be that as each day passes my IQ level is slowing decreasing? Did I move to southern Indiana and no one bothered to inform me?
One reason National Lampoon's Van Wilder works is because of star Ryan Reynolds (who I could have sworn was Burt's son…but never mind that). Reynolds has a cocky yet likable appeal that works in his favor. He's able to shoot off some funny jokes without being completely obnoxious (key word here: completely). I don't really remember him being all the memorable in that cruddy TV show he did, so the less said about that the better. Van is the type of guy that everyone wants on their side when they're trying to either A.) throw a really happening party of B.) trying to get their rocks off with one of the sexy coeds. Reynolds shows that with the right script he's got potential to be a funny guy. Tara Reid is still a dull blonde, but at least she has a good tan and that seems to be all that matters. Her character functions only to be a babe and a plot-propelling device for both Van and the audience. I wish I could say some better, more uplifting things about her, but the fact is that she did her best work in The Big Lebowski. Tara, from here on out it's a long ride downhill.
There were a lot of spots in the movie where I thought I was going to wet my pants. Seeing actor Paul Gleason back in jackass "Breakfast Club" mode was a sheer joy. The gags featuring Van's bulldog's testicles were, to say the least, hysterical. At one point while Van is soaking in a hot tub with his pooch, the dog's bobbers break above the waves like two very large beach balls. Crude? Yes. Funny? Very. There are a lot of moments like this in National Lampoon's Van Wilder. Of course, this isn't a perfect movie, which means there are some inevitable dull spots along the way. Van's international Asian Indian assistant (played way too broadly by Kal Penn) is too often used as a stereotype that's really not that funny.
Even with its lapses and stiff stereotypes, National Lampoon's Van Wilder manages to be an engagingly fun comedy. For some reason I've never liked National Lampoon's Animal House, yet I enjoyed Van Wilder. I liked this movie. I really liked this movie. I never used to like these types of movies. What's wrong with me?
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?!?! I actually laughed at a gag featuring a penis pump being mistaken for a bong!
I am currently awaiting the "Film Critic's Society" arrival at my door to revoke my reviewing license.
National Lampoon's Van Wilder is presented in what appears to be 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Artisan's work on this title is better than I expected—with a solid amount of detailed colors and well saturated black levels, this transfer appears to be in tip top shape. While there are a few minor imperfections in the image (including some edge enhancement and a tad bit of pixilation), overall I was highly impressed with how pleasing this picture was.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, both in English. Van Wilder isn't the most effects-heavy film, so it wasn't surprising to find this 5.1 track to be only slightly engaging. There are some nice moments where directional effects are utilized, though the bulk of the track is focused primarily through the front and center speakers. The rock and roll soundtrack gets the most surround sound time whenever it kicks in over scenes of Van studying or gratuitous shots of women's breasts. Overall the mixes are free and clear of any hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles.
Artisan has "gone nuts" with Van Wilder—so nuts, in fact, that they've produced a two-disc set featuring a ton of extra stuff! Disc one contains the film, while disc two features all the supplemental materials. Both discs feature "censored" and "uncensored" menus—i.e., you can either change features watching a girl take off her shirt, or watch 'em with a black bar over her nips.
Here is a rundown of what's on the disc:
Reel Comedy: National Lampoon's Van Wilder: A nearly 20 minute special on the film hosted by Roger Rose and told in a very cheesy "Entertainment Tonight" / "American's Most Wanted" style. This is a mostly tongue-in-cheek parody of the film that includes interviews with the actors in-character discussing their thoughts on the fictitious Van Wilder (who also shows up for a few interviews himself). I guess this is a cute piece, though it's very fluffy and won't warrant repeat viewings.
Burly TV Specials: "Half Baked," "Impostor," and "Movie Junky": These are three separate featurettes that have seemingly nothing to do with the movie per se, except that they feature the stars and quickly skim over the fact that National Lampoon's Van Wilder is actually being released. "Half Baked" features Bernadette Pauley traveling around to grocery stores and mini-marts with a batch of strange people (I think they're band members, but I really didn't care), and then hosting what appears to be a cooking show with stars Tara Reid and Ryan Reynolds. "Impostor" is some kind of weird piece that skewers dating shows like Blind Date (but this time with the help of Van Wilder castmates). In this episode, the show sends three apparently unsuspecting college females out on a date with a middle-aged man. N'yuck, n'yuck, n'yuck. Once again, this doesn't seem to have a lot to do with the movie, but it is worth a few chuckles to see the girl's expressions as they head off on their date with the middle aged "Jeff." "Movie Junky" features a female host interviewing different cast members from the film, though none of the interviews is all that insightful. This piece was obviously produced for teens and college students who don't have the attention span to watch actual, serious minded interviews about the actor's craft. Instead, they talk about stuff like partying and drinking. Okay, so there's a little bit of character insight. Happy now?
Conceptual Campaign Art Gallery: Around eight images from the film's poster campaign.
Supercult's "Bouncing Off The Walls" Music Video: Duh. A music video for the song "Bouncing Off The Walls" by the group Supercult featuring clips from the film and the band strummin' on their instruments.
Deleted Scenes: Nine deleted scenes presented in a rough non-anamorphic widescreen presentation. Most of these include jokes that fall flat and were rightly edited out of the final cut of the film. However, one includes actress Edie McClurg, so they aren't a total waste.
Outtakes: A compilation of flubs and goofs by the cast. Mildly entertaining.
Production Notes: Just like it sounds. Notes on the making of the film.
Cast and Crew: Information on the various cast and crew members, including some biographical information and a short filmography on each subject.
Trailers and TV Spots: Two trailers and three TV spots, each presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.
The Music of Van Wilder: A promotional spot for the soundtrack. Included on this feature are :30 second clips of the songs featured on the soundtrack.
You know, against everything I stand for I'm actually recommending National Lampoon's Van Wilder to those in the mood for some hearty laughs. The dialogue is sometimes witty while jokes about women's ta-tas and doggie jizz abound for your gross-out fans out there. I guess you could say there's something here for everyone. Artisan's work on this disc is probably better than the film deserved, though I'm happy that they've put the time and effort into this release.
National Lampoon's Van Wilder is doggone funny. It may not be the best comedy ever made, but it made me laugh! Case dismissed!
Give us your feedback!
Scales of Justice
• "Reel Comedy: National Lampoon's Van Wilder" Featurette
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.