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Van Wilder : Party Liaison

Van Wilder has spent seven years at Coolidge College. When his father finds out he's nowhere close to graduating, he cuts off his son's tuition.


Under the tagline ''The tradition continues,'' National Lampoon's Van Wilder comes pretty close. Like John Belushi's character Bluto in the 1978 comedy Animal House, Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds) is on his seventh year of college with no prospects of completing his B.A.--and with good reason. Van is really the big man on campus: he lives in a huge, designer-decorated dorm room, rides around in a personal golf cart, and at the start of each semester, has hundreds of students lined up outside his room vying for the opportunity to become his personal assistant. But when Van's father (played by Tim Matheson, Otter in Animal House) finds out his son is milking him to sustain his cushy college life, he decides to cut Van off. But Van manages to keep afloat with various business ventures, like hiring out topless tutors, until college newspaper journalist Gwen (Tara Reid) discovers the truth. Her boyfriend (Daniel Cosgrove), jealous of Gwen's interest in Van, vows revenge on the campus king.


Ryan Reynolds, who is better known as Berg from the ABC sitcom Two Guys and A Girl, fits nicely into the role of Van Wilder. His popular party boy character could have easily been despicable, but Reynolds manages to make Van an agreeable, down-to-earth guy. As Van's love interest, American Pie alum Reid, like Reynolds, brings some dimension to her character and balances brains with cuteness well; she comes across as smart without having to put on the mandatory horn-rimmed glasses. The chemistry between Reid and Reynolds seems a little off, however, and the romance between the two is hard to buy. Kal Penn was also well cast as Van's assistant Taj Mahal Badalandabad, a virginal exchange student from India who continues to work for Van even when Van can no longer afford to pay him. Real World Hawaii's Teck Holmes landed his first feature film role as Van's best friend, Hutch, and seems to have chosen wisely. Although his character is present on screen throughout most of the film, his lines are few and far between but well delivered and not too far removed from his MTV persona.


The trailer for Van Wilder markets the film as a gross-out teen comedy centered around college kids and sex. And while it is that for the most part, there is also a sort of sweet underlying story line that makes this film surprisingly fun to watch. Van, for one, is not a self-absorbed frat boy but a likeable guy with a bit of a devious streak. Reynolds' performance and witty delivery adds to the character's and the film's charm. There are a couple of sappy scenes in the film, like when Gwen confronts Van about why he is really avoiding graduation, but the cast pulls it all together despite its lulls and predictable ending. While there aren't as many laugh-out-loud moments as there were in Animal House, it fares better than some movies who have tried to match that classic. It's too bad director Walter Becker (whose film Buying the Cow was shelved after its distributor Destination Films went belly-up), didn't capitalize on the film's stronger points, like its wicked one-liners, instead of weakening it with clichés and tender Gwen moments.

Bottom Line

Despite an otherwise formulaic and predictable story line, Van Wilder churns out some really good laughs thanks in part to Ryan Reynolds as the movie's protagonist. Keep an eye out for some great cameo appearances from Paul Gleason and Curtis Armstrong.