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NATIONAL LAMPOON'S
VAN WILDER (UNRATED VERSION)

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Tara Reid, Tim Matheson, Tom Everett Scott, Paul Gleason
Director: Walt Becker
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: Artisan Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 94 Minutes
Release Date: August 20, 2002

“Are you and Richard in the same fraternity?”

“Oh, no. Van isn't exactly Delta Iota Kappa material.”

“Richard, you rascal, you never told me you were a DIK.”

Film ***

It's been a while since any comedy, or movie for that matter, has bared the National Lampoon logo, and if the comedic magazine was ever looking for a way back into the realms of cinematic comedy, Van Wilder is a good enough choice to do so. It's clear that the filmmakers wanted to re-capture the madcap zaniness of National Lampoon's Animal House, which remains one of the funniest college comedies, if not THE funniest, of all time. It couldn't be clearer with the presence of Animal House cast member Tim Matheson, playing the father of the title character. Van Wilder truly belongs in the catalog of gross out comedies, with moments of pure crudeness that even put The Sweetest Thing to shame.

The movie centers on Van Wilder, played by newcomer Ryan Reynolds. Van is enrolled at the prestigious Coolidge College. In fact, he's been there for precisely seven years. He's never really considered going for a career, and considers his part in college to be that of an encourager to other students, providing the campus with endless amounts of parties, fundraisers and, uh…endless partying. When Van Wilder, Sr. (Tim Matheson), who's a workaholic, discovers his son is entering his seventh year at college, he comes to a decision, to put a stop payment on the check for his tuition. Now Van must come up with his own tuition money through his provocative fundraisers.

Enter Gwen Pearson (Tara Reid); an aspiring journalist is summoned by her boss (Tom Everett Scott) to do a piece on Van, since he's become the talk of the college scene. She finds this to be challenging task, since Van is always requesting something racy in exchange for an interview. Gwen also happens to be the girlfriend of sleaze bucket Richard, who heads the Delta Iota Kappa (that's right, DIK for short). When he discovers of Gwen's new assignment, he does everything in his power to put a stop to Van's status as the king of the campus.

I mentioned that the movie is filled left to right with gross out gags, and here's just a sampling of them:

-Van's pet bulldog carries with him a huge package (I'll let you see that one for yourself).

-In order to keep his enrollment, Van is entirely seduced by an elderly school registrar.

-In order to extract some revenge to the DIK, Van and his cohorts add a secret ingredient to some jelly-filled doughnuts, by way of the bulldog.

-Gwen, in a fit of rage, gets back at her scheming boyfriend by fixing him a shake mixed with none other than a product called Colon Blow.

You'll probably notice in some of my reviews that I put down gross out comedies, which I do only because ones that don't gross out are so hard to come by these days. However, there are some that do indeed stand out, and Van Wilder is such a movie. The laughs come head on, and at a breakneck pace, and you simply cannot help but howl at what you are seeing, much like the case with The Sweetest Thing. Ryan Reynolds and Tara Reid deliver a nice little chemistry in their scenes, and that gives the movie a plus, too.

Van Wilder is nowhere near the level of the classic Animal House, but it does indeed deserve the National Lampoon title, because it is one of the funniest college comedies I've ever seen.

Video ***

Artisan has provided a much grand looking disc this time around with Van Wilder. The anamorphic presentation shines with a mostly clear and sharp image, along with perfect color resolution and naturalization. The image quality suffers a bit in a few scenes, most of which are darkly lit scenes, but they're brief, and don't take away from the overall quality of the transfer. Full Screen version is also included.

Audio ***

A serviceably good 5.1 audio mix is supplied here by Artisan. As is the case with most comedies, the audio highpoints on this disc come from the featured music, as well as numerous background sound pick-up in crowded sets. Dialogue is delivered and heard in a wonderfully clear fashion, making this a good enough audio transfer for such a movie.

Features ****

Now, here is where the disc really delivers. For starters, let me start with the menus, which are a first! I have no idea how Artisan got away with the menu option, even for an unrated version. On this two-disc set, you have an option, on both discs, to have censored or uncensored menu screens. Meaning that if you choose uncensored, you'll be treated to a viewing a woman's bare chest just about every time you choose something. If you choose censored, it will be the other way around. Artisan has definitely crossed over a boundary here by daringly creating such a menu screen, and I hope this encourages other studios to do the same with appropriately themed movies.

Onto the extras at hand. Artisan has without a doubt constructed one of their best-loaded discs to date, if not the best. Lacking the presence of a commentary track, the disc still delivers in the extras field. First off, there are four behind the scenes specials, including a Comedy Central Reel Comedy featurette, and three other TV specials used in the promoting of the movie. Also featured are endless deleted scenes and outtakes, trailers and TV spots, a Van Wilder campaign art gallery, a music video for the Sugarcult song “Bouncing Off the Walls”, and a trailer gallery for additional Artisan releases, including Reservoir Dogs, and the upcoming 10th Anniversary Limited Edition release of Glengarry Glen Ross (happy to hear about that!!!).

Summary:

Van Wilder ranks as both a howler of a college comedy, and as one of the best extras-loaded discs you'll come across this year.