National Lampoon’s Van Wilder doesn’t hold up as the 2002 comedy hits Blu-ray for the second time in over a decade.
Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds) has been attending Coolidge College for seven years. He’s been attending the school for so long that he brings in assistant after assistant to help him plan his party schedule. After interviewing several candidates, Van settles on Taj Badalandabad (Kal Penn). It’s shortly thereafter that his father, Vance Wilder Sr. (Tim Matheson), learns of his son still being in school so he cuts him financially.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s journalist Gwen Pearson (Tara Reid). Her editor, Elliott Grebb (Tom Everett Scott), assigns her a human interest piece on Wilder knowing that there’s no chance he’d ever do it. It’s only after Gwen writes a piece on Van’s success with throwing a party for the Lambda Omega Omega fraternity in which opportunities begin to present themselves for the veteran student.
All good things, as they say, must finally come to an end. Things get wildly out of hand for the younger Wilder to the point in which he finds himself sitting before a university panel. Much to everyone’s surprise, it’s Professor McDougal (Paul Gleason) who casts the deciding vote in Van’s favor. Instead of being expelled from school, Van is forced to graduate by obtaining the remaining 18 credits needed in order to do so.
As comedy receptors evolve over time, some films don’t especially hold up as when they were released. This is more or less the case for Van Wilder. Whatever laughs that were in this film when it first graced the big screen in 2002 just aren’t there today. This isn’t to take anything away from the performances. It’s more so a testament to the types of films that are able stand the test of time.
The core cast of Ryan Reynolds, Tara Reid, and Kal Penn are solid performers with Reynolds especially having the best post-Van career of the trio. Reynolds was already on his way to stardom by way of his role on then-ABC series, Two Guys, A Girl, and A Pizza Place. His work in the film only helped to catapult him to the next level.
If you look closely, there are a lot of people in the cast before they were stars. Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory), Sophia Bush (One Tree Hill), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Emily Rutherford (The New Adventures of Old Christine) have cameo or minor supporting roles.
With Animal House star Tim Matheson appearing as Van’s father, it seems like they missed a big opportunity to tie it into the franchise by not naming him Van Otter! While I made these comments in 2002 when the film came out, I stand by them today.
All things considered, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder just doesn’t fit the National Lampoon brand.
- “Party Legends, Pledges, and ‘Bull’-ies” Featurette
- Drunken Idiot “Kommentary”
- “Ultimate College Party Guide” Featurette
- “Gwen-ezuma’s Revenge” Featurette
- “Testicles of the Animal Kingdom” Interactive Quizzicle
- “Write That Down” Quotes from and Inspired by the Film
- Sugarcult “Bouncing Off the Walls” Music Video
- Deleted Scenes
- Burly TV Specials, “Half Baked,” “Imposter,” “Movie Junky”
- Comedy Central’s “Reel Comedy: National Lampoon’s Van Wilder”
- Van Wilder Blu-Book Exam: Exclusive Blu-ray Interactive Game
DIRECTOR: Walt Becker
SCREENWRITERS: Brent Goldberg and David T. Wagner
CAST: Ryan Reynolds, Tara Reid, Tim Matheson, Kal Penn, Curtis Armstrong, Chris Owen, and Paul Gleason
Originally released on April 5, 2002, Lionsgate Home Entertainment released an unrated edition of National Lampoon’s Van Wilder on Blu-ray on May 1, 2018.