The casting says it all. Remember Booger from Revenge of the Nerds? Curtis Armstrong is a bit cleaner in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. He plays a security guard at a college where seven-year student Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds) reigns supreme. Like Slackers, Super Troopers and last year’s Wet Hot American Summer, Van Wilder brings to mind the gross-out yarns of yesteryear. Perpetually afraid of his future, Wilder prolongs his stay at college but is forced to pull a Brady Kids routine when Dad decides to stop paying his tuition. With the help of his overzealous assistant Taj, Van saves the nerd population from itself by launching killer parties and topless tutoring sessions (why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?). Kal Penn is hysterical and surprisingly inoffensive as Taj—no small feat considering his insatiable desire to pleasure the female lotus patch. Van Wilder is uncommonly sweet for a film with gags this gross. During the film’s sure-to-be-classic centerpiece, Wilder makes cannoli with dog semen. Brent Goldberg and David T. Wagner, writers of the 1998 short Saving Ryan’s Privates, keep the pot-stoked blather to a minimum. Efficiently paced and put together by first-time director Walt Becker, Van Wilder is drenched in irony but feels less forced than your average American Pie. David Nessim Lawrence’s old-fashioned, sitcomy score adds the general air of intimacy. The film’s weakest link is perhaps the too-vanilla chemistry between Wilder and Tara Reid’s hungry journalist Gwen. Daniel Cosgrove especially stands out as the jealous fraternity Dick. In one of the film’s better sight gags, Dick’s fraternity brothers position themselves as stakes in a game of croquet. Sure, some of the jokes fall flat but in a time of too-many Not Another Teen Movies, the retro Van Wilder‘s feels unusually fresh.
- Walt Becker
- Brent Goldberg, David T. Wagner
- Ryan Reynolds, Tara Reid, Kal Penn, Tim Matheson, Kim Smith, Daniel Cosgrove, Tom Everett-Scott, Chris Owen, Teck Holmes, Curtis Armstrong
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