Walt Becker (Wild Hogs, remember that gem?) directs Ryan Reynolds as Van Wilder in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. Reynolds plays Van, a collegiate Peter Pan, who has partied for seven years at Coolidge College. Tara Reid plays Gwen Pearson, a reporter for the school paper who has to do an article on Van. Kal Penn plays Taj Mahal, a racist caricature of an Indian foreign exchange student who acts as Van’s assistant.
Van Wilder is the party king at Coolidge College, and one day Van’s dad gets sick of paying for his son’s tuition and stops paying for it. Van starts planning and throwing huge parties to pay for tuition with his friend Hutch, and his assistant Taj’s help. When an attractive reporter named Gwen is assigned to writing an article about him, he thinks it would be more fun to try and steal her from her douchebag boyfriend.
Her boyfriend Richard (Daniel Cosgrove) is on the fast track to being a successful doctor, in direct contrast to the free spirit Van. The two start a prank war (because that’s what happens in cliché college comedies) and the highlight is when Van replaces the cream filling in a box of éclairs with dog semen and Richard and his douchebag friends devour them. There’s a great line, “I think I’ve had these before.”
So the prank war gets out of hand and Van ends up getting expelled. But he has a chance to clear his name at a hearing, and he asks that they reinstate him so he can get his degree and graduate. And because this is a movie and he’s the main character, they decide to give him a chance. And he succeeds and gets his diploma and the girl. Bet you didn’t see that coming.
National Lampoon’s track record was pretty impressive. In the 80’s. And they had a few scattered hits ever since, but most of their shit is straight to video now. Their plots and characters are not unique. Their humor is lowbrow and dated. They use exaggerated sound effects and use fast motion in a vain attempt to be funny. Van Wilder is no exception, it just benefits from having a likeable lead actor like Ryan Reynolds. He really carries the film, he makes Van fun, cool, likeable, and most importantly, believable. Tara Reid does a decent job playing the love interest, you forget that she used to be kinda hot. This movie is proof of that. And there’s a quick cameo from Aaron Paul from before he was famous as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad.
Shame on Kal Penn. Van Wilder was made in 2002 and he plays the stereotypical Indian exchange student. He is a joke, he is a punch line. He has a ridiculous accent. He is a horny virgin would do anything to please Van Wilder. Two years later Kal Penn would star as Kumar in Harold & Kumar. That movie makes fun of stereotypes and destroys them. And after that, he returned to playing Taj Mahal for a chance to star in a terrible Van Wilder sequel. Have a little self-respect.
This movie has a terrible plot and a lot of crappy jokes that either aren’t funny or don’t lead to anything. But Ryan Reynolds redeems the movie. He carries it and makes it fun. There are a few funny jokes, but only one gag out of three works. It’s a good comedy, but it shouldn’t be your favorite. If it is, you need to expand your horizons. Watch Airplane! or the Naked Gun trilogy. That’s comedy.
Critically Rated at 11/17