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National Lampoon's Van Wilder

movie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: National Lampoon's Van Wilder

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Tara Reid
Director: Walt Becker
Rated: R
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: April 2002
Genre: Comedy


*Also starring: Tom Everett Scott, Tim Matheson, Kal Penn, Daniel Cosgrove



Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
½ star out of 4

The cardinal rule of every movie, whether a romantic comedy, a thriller, a parody or a period piece is that it must have a conflict. There are few movies I can think of that could not therefore be entitled "Big Trouble," as generic a name as you can get, and I think that author Dave Barry chose that for his first novel because there is no focussed plot to speak of. "Big Trouble," which had been scheduled to open in mid-September but whose debut was changed to April because of the tragic events of 9/11, is a pleasant enough diversion, a series of sketches which ultimately resolve the communication problems of a diverse group of individuals.

Miami's Dade County comes in for some gentle ribbing because it appears to be the home of people who are either zany or just plain stupid. Nice to know that New York is not the only place in North America to enjoy honors in that category. While the story is not centered, Dave Barry uses Jason Lee as his narrator, a homeless man who shares with many others of his ilk the appearance of Jesus. In his role as Puggy, he could, in fact, be a god-like figure looking down at us foolish mortals, describing the assorted antics that would puzzle anyone from another planet particularly since the rules of comedy require that any resolutions to the characters' problems must take place in a roundabout way.

The most realistic problem is faced by Eliot Arnold (Tim Allen), a Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist with the Miami Herald who is given a trivial assignment which he refuses to do. After putting his foot into the boss' computer he is forced to open up an advertising business which fails. His chief dilemma is that his teenaged son, Matt (Ben Foster), thinks his dad is a loser and cannot talk to him in a respectful manner. Dave Barry, through director Barry Sonnenfeld, gives Eliot the opportunity to become his son's hero.

The various skits bring together two moronic street thugs who wind up stealing a nuclear missile which they must transport from Miami to Nassau, though there is little indication what's in it for them. Nor do we really know why rich industralist Arthur Herk (Stanley Tucci), wants to buy a missile, unless he too wants to regain the respect of the family that hates him his wife Anna (Rene Russo), his blase teen daughter Jenny (Zooey Deschanel) and, without realizing it, two hit men led by Henry Dennis Farina, who are offered to twenty-five big ones to off the magnate.

The film also features a pair of FBI agents (played by Dwight Myers and Omar Epps) and a pair of seen-it-all cops (played by the usually hilarious Janeane Garofalo and Steven-Segal-like Patrick Warburton).

While the movie is not one of Barry Sonnenfeld's better ventures not as quirky as "The Addams Family, not as funny as "Get Shorty" or "Men in Black," "Big Trouble" is the sort of fare that could well have been postponed to June as a warm and fuzzy summer pic.

Copyright 2002 Edward Johnson-Ott

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