National Lampoon's Van Wilder Movie Review

Subscribe Ryan Reynolds

Have campus comedies really reached the point where fashionable, ante-upping gross-out gags are obligatory? I mean, do we really need a movie in which bulldog semen is served in pastries to unsuspecting frat jerks?

I ask only because "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" has such hilariously droll dialogue and such a witty, charismatic lead in Ryan Reynolds (of TV's "Two Guys and a Girl") that it's just bursting with untapped crafty comic energy that has been redirected toward the lowest of the lowbrow.

Reynolds emits an aura of smarmy charm in the title role of consummate collegiate slacker Van Wilder who, after seven years as Big Man On Campus and $40,000 in tuition, has been cut off by his fed-up father (played by Tim Matheson in one of the flick's many nods to "Animal House").

Desperately seeking funds to continue his mock education, Van tests the waters of small business, starting a pay-to-study "topless tutors" program and offering his services as a "party liaison," souping up even the nerdiest frat parties until they're the hottest tickets on campus.

"Her name is Naomi. That's 'I moan' backwards," Van winks to a nervous nerd while introducing him to a beautiful babe that wouldn't have been caught dead at his party without our hero's help.

Reynolds embraces his character's smart-aleck shallowness with such imaginative gusto it renders the guy paradoxically congenial from his very first scene, in which he flabbergasts a suicidal freshman by joining the kid on the roof of his dorm, completely naked from the waist down.

These kinds of antics draw the attention of a sexy but self-serious school newspaper reporter (Tara Reid) assigned to write a story about Van over her protests that she'd rather be tackling politics or other weight issues. Reid ("American Pie," "Josie and the Pussycats") has zero credibility as a brain -- especially since she's also one of those movie girls too stupid to realize her arrogant, negligent, frat-brother boyfriend is Mr. Wrong. But she does make an ideal object of desire for Van, who treats her journalistic pursuit of him as if she's on the make.

"Are you stalking me?" he grins Puckishly after bumping into her unexpectedly. "'Cause that would be super!"

When "Van Wilder" sticks to its wits, its comedy is unstoppable. I must have written down 15 lines of sharply scintillating dialogue even funnier than those above in my screening notes. The story frequently goes off in refreshingly bizarre directions, and Reynolds' irreverence is downright irresistible.

But for every shining moment of cagey, capricious comedy, there's an equal and opposite moment of acute unoriginality or beyond-belief bad taste.

Save the title character, every speaking part in this picture is a stereotype or tiresome cliché. Van recruits a desperate virgin Indian exchange student (Kal Penn) as a personal assistant, and every time he's on screen, sitar music plays on the soundtrack. Van's arch-nemesis is a sniveling preppie (What is this? 1981?) who leads his fraternity in secret hazing rituals that require silly ceremonial robes. Of course, there's a crusty professor out to flunk Van at all costs (played by Paul Gleason from "The Breakfast Club").

And obviously director Walter Becker (whose debut, "Buying the Cow," has been suspiciously sitting on a shelf for two years) felt the need to lower "Van Wilder" to compete with such squalid bottom-feeding flicks as "Tomcats" (testicle-eating), "American Pie 2" (urine shower) and "Freddy Got Fingered" (where do I start?).

The sad thing is, had he and screenwriters Brent Goldberg and David T. Wagner directed that same creative spark toward fixing up the lamer elements of the script, this truly could have been the 21st Century successor to "Animal House" that the producers were clearly dreaming of.

If you can stomach the stupider elements of the story and soldier through the scenes of stomach-turning schtick, there absolutely is entertainment to be had here. It's just a pity the people who made this picture couldn't see its higher potential.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Starring : , , , , , , , , , Teck Holmes, , Emily Rutherfurd, ameo: Erik Estrada

Subscribe Ryan Reynolds


National Lampoon's Van Wilder Rating

" Weak "

Rating: R, Opened: Friday, April 5, 2002


More Ryan Reynolds

Blake Lively Is More Beautiful Than Ever As She Shows Off Baby Bump [Pictures]

Blake Lively glowed as she took to the red carpet on Thursday (16th October) and showed off her growing baby bump. The 27-year-old actress appeared...

Blake Lively Is Pregnant! Actress Announces She's Expecting First Child With Ryan Reynolds On 'Preserve'

Blake Lively is expecting her first child with husband Ryan Reynolds. The 27-year-old actress announced the news on her lifestyle website Preserve on Monday 6th...

'X-Men: Deadpool' Set For 2016, Ryan Reynolds Likely to Star

X-Men: Deadpool, a project that has long been in development for Twentieth Century Fox, will hit theaters in February 12, 2016. Tim Miller - responsible...

Fox Gives Winter 2016 Release Date To 'X-Men' Spinoff 'Deadpool'

Finally Ryan Reynolds will star in another superhero movie, and this time it will hopefully be better than 2011's 'Green Lantern.' Twentieth Century Fox and...


A Week In Movies: Stars Premiere Films In Venice And Toronto, While Films Shoot In Los Angeles And London. Pixar Teases Lava, And Trailers Debut For Museum And Bosses Sequels

The Venice Film Festival came to a close this week with a flurry of star-studded premieres and the glitzy awards ceremony. Al Pacino was on...

10 Things To Know About Blake Lively's 'Vogue' Cover Interview

Blake Lively is a wife to heartthrob Ryan Reynolds, the idol of many of Gossip Girl obsessed teenage (and older) girl, and a future internet...

Katie Holmes, Ryan Reynolds and Helen Mirren Filming 'Woman In Gold' [Pictures]

Katie Holmes, Ryan Reynolds and Helen Mirren have been hard at work filming The Woman in Gold - an upcoming American-British drama film directed by...

Everything You Need To Know About Katie Holmes' New Movie

As the former wife of one of Hollywood’s most prolific and instantly recognisable screen icons, it is to be expected that Katie Holmes marriage to...