“Van Wilder” | Movie Review

Van Wilder (2002) 1Grade (B+)

College life examined through the National Lampoon’s lens delivers tons of lighthearted crude humor that entertains with a collection of hilarious characters.

When most people hear the name National Lampoon’s in relation to a film title they can be safe in knowing they will be privy to large amounts of sexual and drug related humor, colorful characters, and most certainly, a wild story-line. The only variable to the equation is whether or not it can translate to an entertaining movie.

The National Lampoon’s humor magazines ran for close to thirty-years and have spawned several less than impressive films along the way but mixed in is a collection of hilarious comedy romps. Although most were from the 80’s, one of the more recent entertaining entries was “Van Wilder” starring Ryan Reynolds as the popular playboy in college that everyone gravitates round.

The cast consists of Kal Penn in his first major role, Tara Reid who at the time was still trying to be molded into a leading lady by Hollywood, Teck Holmes fresh of his MTV Real World stint, Daniel Cosgrove, Paul Gleason, Tom Everett Scott, as well as the first cameo role for Sophia Bush.

Van Wilder (Reynolds) is the classic (guy’s want to be him, girl’s want to be with him) college student entering his seventh-year at Coolidge College. Other than partying, Van has not a care in the world until his wealthy father decides to cut his tuition funding. Left with the option of graduate, drop out, or find a way to pay his own way, Van manages to find more then a couple ways to generate revenue for himself. At the same time Gwen (Reid) a reporter for the school paper is given the task of writing a story on the wildly popular student who everyone knows, on the outside.

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Without question this is a “turn your brain off” comedy that is filled with loads of sexual and drug related humor. But sometimes that is just the type of film a person may be looking to enjoy on any given evening. Anyone familiar with the National Lampoon’s theme will know exactly what to expect, but for those of you who are not, be warned.

This film is loaded with adult level comedy and in my opinion most of it is completely hilarious. Despite the mass population who would not consider a role like this a quality one, Ryan Reynolds launched his career with his performance, and rightfully so. There were not many times when he didn’t deliver the intended laugh. From the dialogue, his expressions, and gestures, he was everything you could want from the lead role of this college romp.

Kal Penn was also hilarious in his breakthrough performance as the shy and innocent Indian boy named Taj Mahal Badalandabad, who is dying to experience the American woman before returning home. With more minutes onscreen he could have easily been a co-lead along with Reynolds, but as it stood he was a solid supporting character that put out one memorably funny line after another.

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Daniel Cosgrove was great as the pretentious scholar dating the lead female played by Tara Reid who managed to actually deliver a strong performance from the little material she was given. I guess ‘strong’ would be a slight overstatement but to say it best, she at no time hindered the film.

The script was pretty solid for a film of this genre, it kept a smooth pace and stuck to the comedy rather than muddling itself too much in the love triangle. The story-line kept the actions of Wilder in college the main plot over the Reynolds/Reid love story and it enabled the story to set up one laugh-out-loud comedic scenario after another from the beginning to end.

Many will notice some familiar faces throughout this one from past nostalgic films in various cameos, and it also add some bright moments to the film. In my opinion the thing that makes this film better than others of the genre was that there was a high amount of wit put into the conception of the comedy. Despite how outrageous some of the sequences were, they all gave laughter and the comedy never seemed to get stale or repetitive.

“Van Wilder” was and still is a great watch. The laughs do not seem to get old, and with a strong group of comedic performance from the likable characters this one turned out to be better than most of those college comedies filled with raunchy jokes, tasteful nudity, and disgusting humor. Not to say this film doesn’t contain all of these. It just left out the bad acting and overly cheesy jokes, and took itself as serious as possible for a film that aims for the opposite in its delivery. This is a lighthearted and fun film that creates an inviting setting, and even a few moments some of us can remember from our own college days.

Time: 92 min

MPAA Rating: R (For strong sexual content, gross humor, language and some drug content)