" Gentlemen, the boy who saw a woman’s breast has left the planet "
The American Astronaut

MRQE Top Critic

Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace

Does the original trilogy justice in terms of heart, action, and fun —Marty Mapes (review...)

Sponsored links

In 1978, a movie called Animal House quickly became the college student’s Bible. The film not only withstood the test of time as one of the funniest comedies ever made, but also gave birth to the National Lampoon franchise.

Now, over two decades later, the National Lampoon series is trying to recapture the same zaniness the Deltas delivered, with its newest addition, Van Wilder. But like National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation, Van Wilder proves that some franchises just don’t age well.

That said, Van Wilder isn’t a horrible movie. Compared to the dozens of other college-targeted comedies studios have been cranking out these past years, Van Wilder is one of the few that manages to stand out. It has its share of laugh-out-loud moments, and one scene in particular will even have those who pride themselves on not being grossed out during movies running for the nearest restroom.

Still, for every scene that stays true to what the name National Lampoon used to mean, there are a handful of scenes that remind viewers what the name has become — a mere title used to draw moviegoers to the theater.

You’ve Gotta Fight For Your Right to Party

Ryan Reynolds ditches realityVan Wilder focuses on Van (Ryan Reynolds), a college student who loves school so much he’s been an undergraduate for seven years. And why not? He has women flocking to his feet, his own personal assistant, and most importantly, Daddy picking up the tuition bill. But when his father (Tim Matheson) realizes he’s been paying for Van’s bachelor degree three years too long, he refuses to pay Van’s bills any longer.

Determined not to leave the school he has come to call home, Van decides to use his talent for unforgettable parties to create a temporary career as a party planner. However, when his newfound career — and the fact he’s been in college for almost a decade — attracts a school reporter (Tara Reid) to write a profile on him, she discovers Van’s biggest secret — he’s actually an honor student! When she confronts him, Van must face the fact that the reason he hasn’t graduated isn’t because he’s had so much fun in college, but because he’s scared to grow up.

A Shining Star and One Boring Love Interest

Since the majority of Van Wilder focuses on Van, it’s important that Reynolds (Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place) can keep an audience’s interest. Luckily, he was born for the part. Those who enjoyed Jim Carrey’s performance in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective will instantly fall in love with Reynolds’ portrayal of Van. His performance is engaging, funny and heartfelt, and viewers will find it hard to take their eyes off of him. Reynolds’ talent and charisma shine in the role, and whether Van Wilder is a success or not, one can only hope that his performance will open up as many doors for him in Hollywood as were opened for less talented Freddie Prinze, Jr.-type stars.

As splendid as Reynolds is, Tara Reid is drab and emotionless as the reporter who supposedly (it’s implied, but her performance makes it hard to see) falls in love with Van. Reid shows little change from her character in the American Pie movies and proves that her endearing performance in Josie and the Pussycats was just a fluke. One can only wonder what casting director Barbara Fiorentino was thinking when signing Reid, especially considering that the rest of the cast — which includes Tom Everett Scott, Real World alumnus Teck Holmes and The Breakfast Club’s Paul Gleason — gives performances worthy of sharing the screen with Reynolds.

The “Laugh” Sign is Flashing

Reid’s performance isn’t the only downfall Van Wilder has, though. Many of the movie’s jokes fall flat on viewers’ ears, while poor editing causes others to go by so fast that by the time audiences comprehend them, the moment has passed. Nevertheless, there are a few great comedic moments — one scene in particular will forever change the way viewers look at pastries — that help make Van Wilder worth sitting through.

The Tradition Continues?

While Van Wilder may not be the worst National Lampoon film, it’s no Animal House. Still, one has to give it credit for not following in the footsteps of recent forgettable comedies like Tomcats. Van Wilder shows a glimpse of originality and heart in the midst of the numerous predictable and tiresome jokes it delivers. And that, alongside a relatively talented cast and an outstanding performance by Ryan Reynolds, makes it worth seeing... when it comes out on video.