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Film Review: National Lampoon's Van Wilder

Another profound insight into the world of American adolescents...

There are few absolute certainties left in this world around which the young and impressionable can pivot the chaos of their lives. Thankfully, the American Teen Comedy genre has, without exception, supported and comforted these lonely souls in their time of need. Its many Cast Iron Rules include: all you have to do is party during the semester and study for the last 4 days, girls will ALWAYS answer the phone in their underwear, beer flows like water from the university taps, Farting is Funny, the Guy will always ignore, then chase, then offend, then get the Girl and the Girl will always hate, then be charmed by, then be offended by, then fall for the Guy. Accept these without question and National Lampoon's Van Wilder will go down easier than a Hilarious (tm) suspiciously-warm "cream" cake.

Tara Reid in National Lampoon's Van WilderThe story, if you're interested, centres around the incorrigible Vance Wilder (Ryan Reynolds) - a party pimp and general legend to the students of Coolidge College. We can but watch in amazement as he stirs college moral, brings hope, raises the roof, chases the girl (Tara Reid) and snubs authority - with the help of his goofy, sex-crazed friends (Kal Penn and Teck Holmes) - throughout a series of bizarre and impossible events. But lets be honest - we're not here for the deep, thoughtful plot. Any film with the tag line "if you liked American Pie, you'll love this!" shrugs off such insignificant details.

And that raises the real question here - how does it compare to the many, many, many other American Pie Jr.s (or, on the grander scale of things, how does it compare to Porky's?). These scales work in a know-what-you're-in-for, have-got-properly-sozzled-beforehand, brought-plenty-of-properly-sozzled-friends-with-you kind of way. And the answer, surprisingly, is "not that bad".

Van Wilder knows its comedic forefathers (in fact, Kingpin and Happy Gilmore should by rights get a mention in the credits) and, in most cases, re-performs their tricks confidently. When the film does branch out and dare to be original, it leans - to its credit - more toward funny one-liners or variations on staple characters (the sidekick, the jealous boyfriend etc.) and (mostly) away from tired gross-out comedy. In a film which rests on the ability of the audience to stomach Van and his hijinks for 95 consecutive minutes, Ryan Reynolds is as palatable as the script will allow him to be, and Tara Reid doesn't even suck as much as usual - a blessing indeed.

If you have a couple of hours to kill on a Saturday night, don't mind excessive use of the word "dick" and don't (yet) hate Tara Reid, you could do worse than seeing this film. If shown along side its predecessors (Porky's, American Pie) it's passable. In comparison to its peers (American Pie 2 or Dude, Where's My Car) it's admirable.

Brendan Morrissey

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