National Lampoon's Van Wilder

2002, Movie, R, 95 mins

Review

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VAN WILDER | VAN WILDER
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While not for every taste, this often very funny collegiate gross-out comedy goes a long way toward restoring the luster of the NATIONAL LAMPOON film franchise, too long reduced to direct-to-video irrelevancy. And without giving away too much, it's also safe to say (paraphrasing legendary critic Andrew Sarris) that it's the CITIZEN KANE of bulldog semen-joke movies: You'll see it, although you won't necessarily believe it. The titular Van (Ryan Reynolds, who musters exactly the right combination of smarm and sincerity) is a professional student/BMOC in his seventh year at Coolidge College. It's obvious that he's having far too much fun for his own good: He seems like exactly the sort of son that ANIMAL HOUSE's preppy seducer Otter (Tim Matheson) would have had if he'd ever settled down, and in one of the film's many surprisingly good jokes, Van's dad is played by, yes, Matheson (frighteningly unscathed by the passage of time). The film's slight plot is launched when Dad suddenly cuts off Van's tuition; thinking fast, the kid starts up a soon-flourishing business as a party consultant for uncool frat rats, thus enabling him to postpone — perhaps indefinitely — his exit into the real world. Van's very public success attracts the attention of the lovely Gwen Pearson (Tara Reid), a reporter for the college paper. Her editor (Tom Hanks-clone Tom Everett Scott, in an unbilled cameo) suspects that Van may have some sort of hidden depth and, again, without giving too much away, this turns out to be true. Beneath the rakish exterior, Van is actually a mensch of epic proportions, and the icing on the cake is that most of the other characters are similarly unpredictable, including Van's principal nemesis, Richard Bagg (Daniel Cosgrove), the upper-crust head of the D.I.K. fraternity. Bagg may be every bit as obnoxious as the straight-arrow Omegas who tormented Otter and company in ANIMAL HOUSE, but he's also extremely smart and capable of genuine wit; when he and Van go nose to nose, he generally gives as good as he gets. It's a refreshing twist in a film that, given its apparent determination not to transcend its lowbrow genre, has more than its fair share of them. leave a comment --Steve Simels

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