Van Wilder

Wow! Has it really been 25 years since National Lampoon unleashed “Animal House” on an unsuspecting public? My, how time flies by. 25 years later, National Lampoon is back on campus with “Van Wilder,” a quasi-update of the original “Animal House.” Since “Animal House” is a classic of its type, it would be impossible to improve or duplicate the formula.


Well, maybe improve, but like the little rascals that they are, National Lampoon has duplicated the frat house humor that made the original so endearing. “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” isn’t a great film, perhaps far from it, but it did make me laugh my ass off. Anyone find it? It’s the one with the cute cheeks.

I watched “Van Wilder” with great apprehension. I mean, how dare National Lampoon desecrate the memory of a classic? The nerve. The audacity. The constant stream of outrageous humor. “Van Wilder” may not be “Animal House,” but it does deal with animal behavior, and it does so with a winning nudge and wink, and some “I can’t believe they did that” gross-out moments that will leave you numb from laughing.

Ryan Reynolds, one third of that awful television show “Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place,” is perfect as Van Wilder, the seven year college student who is aiming for eight when his rich father cuts off his tuition. The unofficial student body leader of Coolidge College, Van is so popular that when he announces that he needs a new assistant (darn those other assistants for graduating), a long line of potential applications arrive at this dorm. Wilder eventually settles on foreign exchange student Taj (Kal Penn), whose main goal is to get laid.

Like in “Animal House,” Van has his detractors, including school officials who know that he is capable of graduating, and a smarmy Frat House leader whose girlfriend, a reporter for the school paper, has been assigned to do a story on Wilder. Tara Reid is sweet as Gwen, the reporter who starts off doing an expose, and then slowly changes her mind when she begins to fall under Wilder’s spell.

“National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” is filled with the customary college hi-jinks, then steers off into uncharted territory with some gags that will, well, make you gag. I loved the way Van Wilder and his buddies get even with the Frat boys, sending them a basket of pastries with a very special filling. What makes these gross out moments funny is that the writers, director, and especially Reynolds, never take them seriously.

What might have been cruel becomes funny because Van Wilder doesn’t really have a cruel bone in his body. He does what he does out of generosity. He’s sweet and good natured, with just enough of a bad boy streak to make him interesting. He also likes to run around naked, and Reynolds lovingly obliges. Whether he’s talking a jumper off a campus roof (without his pants), streaking, or posing for an art class, Wilder shows no shame.

Neither do director Walt Becker, or the writers, who have come up with millennium versions of old “Animal House” jokes. The Unrated DVD also features more of the same. Reid is quite good as Gwen, putting her affection ahead of her job to do the right thing. As a nod to the original “Animal House,” Tim Matheson plays Wilder’s super-rich dad who wants his son to make something of himself.

Any film that can make me laugh as much as “Van Wilder” deserves a place in my library. It’s the kind of film you will dig out time and time again to prove to your friends just how funny it is.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: GOOD

1.85:1 Widescreen

16:9 Enhanced

Full Screen

Decent but not spectacular digital transfer, the goods are here, but they’re not perfect. The DVD features both an Anamorphic widescreen presentation, plus a full-screen version. Something for everyone, but cramming two versions of the same film on one disc doesn’t leave much leeway for visual perfection. Colors are sharp but not vivid, and saturation is strong. There is a minor amount of artifacts floating about, and some edge enhancement is also visible. Neither are life threatening. Blacks are strong but not industrial strength, while attention to detail is fine except in the shadows. Flesh tones look natural, and the daylight scenes are bright and pretty.

HEARING: GOOD

5.1 Dolby Digital Surround

2.0 Dolby Digital Surround

The 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track gets the job done without too much interference. There’s not a lot of surround action, but the dialogue track is well mixed, and the front sound stage is filled with expressive left-to-right and center channel action. Musical cues get the most attention, and they pour from the speakers with assurance. The sound is crisp and for the most part pure. Ambient noise, musical cues and the occasional surround swipe fill the rear speakers. Basses are weak, but that’s the nature of the beast. Middle and high ends purr.

ORAL: GOOD

Closed Captions in English

Spanish subtitles

COORDINATION: GOOD

10 Deleted scenes and 12 out-takes are featured on the second disc of this two-disc set. The deleted scenes are a mixed bag, some funny, others not. The out-takes are for anyone who likes to watch actors mess up their lines, or who like to see how tensions is relieved on the set.

Topless Tutor Menu Feature, available on the Unrated DVD, this optional feature allows you to experience the various menus with a topless female host. There are also a number of hidden Easter Eggs that provide more of the same. If you’re a breast man, you’ll love this feature.

“Reel Comedy: National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” Comedy Central special is pretty much like all of Comedy Central specials. There are the usual behind-the-scenes shots, clips from the film, and personal interaction involving the cast. Okay, but if watch CC, then you’ve probably already seen this.

Burly Television specials, a series of vignettes from a show I’ve never heard of and probably will never watch. The vignettes include a “Half Baked Special,” “The Impostor,” and “Movie Junkie.” Combined, you get more than 30-minutes of silliness, and like the deleted scenes and out-takes, some moments are funny, others seem like filler.

“Bouncing off the Walls” music video by Sugarcult.

The Music of Van Wilder, a sampler of the various CD cuts used in the film.

Three Television Spots.

Three full-length theatrical trailers, and a teaser spot. Also look for trailers for these Artisan titles: Glengarry Glen Ross, Novocaine, Reservoir Dogs, Good Advice, and the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries Dune.

Art Gallery with a hands-on look at the various one-sheets used to promote the film.

A healthy and in-dept collection of cast & crew bios, and extensive production notes, plus “The Van Wilder Files,” providing humorous text-based insight into the mind of Van Wilder.

PROGNOSIS: GOOD

If this is your cup of pee, I mean tea, then you’ll want to add a copy to your collection. It will get a workout.

PATIENT: NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VAN WILDER

BIRTH DATE: 2002

HMO: Artisan Home Entertainment

PATIENT HISTORY?/p>



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