Van Wilder Freshman Year
For many people summer is their favorite time of year. With its warm weather and time off from school and work many of us are free to pursue a couple of guilty pleases as we relax. For movie buffs the theaters are filled with the traditional big action, special effects laden summer blockbusters. As the studios are concentrating their advertising budgets at filling seats in the local Cineplex the home entertainment divisions shift their focus frequently to lighter flick for release on DVD. One of the most popular genres for this time of year is the frat house sex farce whose target audience traditionally is comprised of high school and college males. Having a ‘Y’ chromosome enables me to understand, at least on a fundamental level, although my age distances me from the target demographic. The entry for this summer under consideration here is ‘Van Wilder Freshman Year’ from Lions gate. At the onset it must be noted that this film is true to the formula of the genre; that is to say the flick is puerile, over sexed and glorifies inebriation, sloth and most of the other traditional seven deadly sins. This is not to say that a flick such as this is devoid of any merit. There are times, particularly in these lazy summer months, when you just want to disengage the higher functioning and rational areas of your brain and just kick back and have a few laughs with your buddies. This movie fits the bill nicely for a Saturday afternoon beer and pizza flick. Ehen your inner child turns out to be a rowdy teenage boy this might just be the flick for you.
The flick may be light on such things as plot, character development and other affectations of a story but was a shooting script provided by Harvey Glazer. At this point in his career most of his experience has been concentrated in the production of horror thrillers with the direction of a couple of comedies to help him prepare for his entry into screenwriting. With this story Glazer is following a clearly defined pre-charted course employed in similar franchises such as the infamous ‘American Pie movies. First you establish the general setting and basic characters with the initial offering. Next you take one popular character as a break out and feature him in a loosely related sequel. In this instance this was achieved with ‘National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj’ a couple of years ago. The step we are current is the trilogy with the almost mandatory ‘prequel’ going back in time to shoe how the characters began their lamentable journey.
The basic premise is simple and a variation of the raunchy college comedy gold standard; ‘Animal House’ but lacking the originality and flair. The original flick established that the titular Van Wilder is in his seventh year of quasi matriculation at Coolidge College. As the title indicates this story takes place as Wilder starts his first year at that institution of higher learning. It immediately becomes self evident how a man could attend a university for almost twice as long as most and never move an inch closer to any perceivable, realistic goal. One of the prime requirements here is to make the protagonist immensely likable. With a character like Van there is nothing that remotely approaches an admirable quality yet audiences have to accept him, well, at least the guys watching. It is certain that the hero of this ribald tale will not find favor with the ladies that may happen to watch.
As the flick begins young Van (Jonathan Bennett) is graduating high school. He is exceptionally bright and id the co-valedictorian for his class. Van is basically a spoiled, privileged rich kid who is accustomed to having life bend to his every whim. His original post-graduation pans were to vacation in Amsterdam with his father (Linden Ashby) but Dad is called away for business at the last minute leaving Van’s dreams of sex and drugs unfulfilled for the summer. Van is sustained by the hope that at least college will be able satisfy his carnal requirements. Much to Van’s chagrin Dean Charles Reardon (Kurt Fuller) rules the college with an iron fist. The most of the boys are practically in the military and the girls’ haven taken vows of chastity. Naturally the bulk of the time for the remainder of this flick details the efforts on the part of Van and his brainless lackeys Yu Dum Fok (Jerry Shea) and Farley (Nestor Aaron Absera) to undo all sense of decorum and instill the student body with lower moral fiber than a Roman orgy. There is a meager attempt to provide some degree of romance by introducing s love interest for Van in the shapely form of Kaitlin Hays as portrayed by MTV ‘reality’ diva Kristin Cavallari. The male cast members are all superficial, neo Nazi jerks and the ladies are pretty much uniformly devoid of modesty which pretty much sets the level for the humor. To the credit of the distributor they did pack a full slate if extras including some bloopers that come across as funnier than the feature. If the wives and girlfriends are out for the afternoon and the guys are over this may work for you.