National Lampoon's Van Wilder

The National Lampoon name carries with it a huge legacy that includes Animal House and Vacation. Van Wilder is their attempt to restart their franchise. So what can be more original than a crude college comedy? Well, many things, but National Lampoon chose to stick with what they know best. Odd, since Van Wilder is not as outrageous as some of its contemporaries. It almost seems tame by comparison. The only other notable factor is that it tries a little harder than usual for a happy ending. The title character is a seventh-year collegian at fictional Coolidge College. Once his father realizes that Wilder (Ryan Reynolds, Buying the Cow, Finder's Fee) is still in college, he cuts off his tuition, forcing Wilder to somehow come up with the funds to pay for college.

Widler's cohorts are Hutch (Teck Holmes, Love Song) and assistant Taj (Kal Penn, American Desi, Freshmen), a horny Indian exchange student whose main aim in helping Wilder is to get laid. Wilder, realizing that he can throw amazing parties, goes into business planning parties. Reporter Gwen (Tara Reid, American Pie 2, Josie and the Pussycats) is working on an article about Wilder. She wants to get to the bottom of why he is still in college. There is an attraction between them, but Gwen has a boyfriend, Richard Bragg (Daniel Cosgrove, Valentine, The Object of My Affection), a buffoonish frat boy. The rest of the movie is Gwen and Wilder warily circling each other, and Wilder and Bragg trading pranks.

Although the crudest prank involves stuffing pastries with something akin to cream, writers Walt Becker (Buying the Cow) and Brent Goldberg (The Girl Next Door, Holiday in the Sun) somehow avoid the game of trying to top the last movie. There is something almost nostalgic in this; it's like watching what people considered crude a decade ago. In fact, Van Wilder seems more interested in jokes involving Wilder's dog than anything else. There are some amusing moments; just enough to redeem this movie from being a total disaster. Basically, Van Wilder has nothing in it to sway viewers dramatically in one direction or another. It's view of college as party central is nothing new.

In terms of the actors, nobody does anything special. Reid seems a little too vapid and disconnected, and the fact that director Walt Becker (Buying the Cow) insists that her character is a serious journalist just makes her effort all the more ridiculous. Penn provides some amusing moments, but like most everybody else, has one main joke that soon runs dry. Reynolds has a little more charisma. He has a wonderfully smug look he uses often, which combines coolness, apathy, and smugness. By himself, Wilder is not too interesting. Compared to the other people in Van Wilder, he is engaging and interesting.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated R for strong sexual content, gross humor, language, and some drug content.

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