"Don't be a fool," Van Wilder lectures. "Stay in school." A seventh-year
undergraduate, he practices what he preaches in VAN WILDER, a.k.a. NATIONAL
LAMPOON'S VAN WILDER, a teenage gross-out comedy with a sentimental side. As
Van Wilder, a legendary BMOC with a cult-like following, Ryan Reynolds turns
what would normally be a smutty role into a genuine sweetheart. The same cannot
be said of the movie, which too often falls back on the same old tiresome ways
to offend the audience into laughing. From a horny, ugly septuagenarian to the
accidental consumption of bodily fluids, we've seen it all before and usually
better. Given how often the film slips into neutral, you could think of it as
AMERICAN PIE ON VALIUM.
When he isn't avoiding classes, Van Wilder has a busy schedule with his
charitable causes. But when his rich papa, Vance Wilder Sr. (Tim Matheson),
discovers how long his son has been in school, he cuts off the money spigot.
This forces young Van to do what he has never had to do before, earn money to
pay for his schooling.
It's no job at the local pizza parlor for Van. With his Tony Robbins persona,
Van figures out entrepreneurial ways to generate cash. His first and funniest
scheme is to hire out busty young women to be "topless tutors." With the
answers written like flip cards on their bosoms, the girls inspire the guys to
study hard. When this idea goes bust, Van, with the help of his assistant, Taj
(Kal Penn), gets into the party planning business.
Trying to break up Van's party, local campus reporter Gwen (Tara Reid) wants to
get the inside scoop on him. It's not easy getting beyond his laugh-a-minute
demeanor -- "Her name's Naomi," he tells one eager male at a party, "that means
'I moan' backwards" -- but Gwen's determined to find the truth about Van. As
the dumb blonde drummer in JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS, Reid was sweetly humorous,
but here, she just seems lost. Director Walt Becker doesn't appear to have
given her much guidance other than to look serious.
VAN WILDER isn't much of a movie, but every time you are ready to write it off
entirely, it comes up with a small gag that works or a cute little line. It's
not much, but it does make the hour and an hour more tolerable.
VAN WILDER runs 1:35. It is rated R for "strong sexual content, gross humor,
language and some drug content" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
My son Jeffrey, almost 13, gave the film *. He said that there were a few funny
things, but, overall, it was just a waste.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes