The most popular kid on campus meets a beautiful journalist who makes him realize that maybe he's afraid to graduate.The most popular kid on campus meets a beautiful journalist who makes him realize that maybe he's afraid to graduate.The most popular kid on campus meets a beautiful journalist who makes him realize that maybe he's afraid to graduate.
The campus wild man is fittingly known as Van Wilder (played by Ryan Reynolds). Van Wilder is a guy that has friends from everywhere, from the jocks to the nerds. Reynolds finds a precarious balance between recklessness and cheerful insanity, which is crucial because he turns acts of humanitarian philanthropy into casual and spontaneous gestures without giving second thought. No job is ever too big for the man, whether it is becoming the de-facto basketball coach that inspires the school's team to win or setting up a rockin' party for the geekiest fraternity on campus. Van Wilder has enthusiastic support from everyone but his burned-out workaholic father (played by Tim Matheson, once the wild man in National Lampoon's Animal House) who decides after seven years of his son's enrollment to stop tuition payment.
Van Wilder becomes the subject of a school newspaper editorial and Tara Reid plays the snobby, uptight reporter Gwen whose ties belong to frat boy Richard Bagg (Daniel Cosgrove), who conducts hazing rituals that are crueler than anything since Animal House. When Gwen tries to get the naked truth from Van Wilder, she mostly just finds Van Wilder naked. But it's the smart rapport that develops between them that allows Van Wilder to strip Gwen's inhibitions, to let her walk on the wild side. In the background, a turf war erupts between Van Wilder and Richard.
The plotting is shameless in its methods of revenge. There are innocent people involved in the mayhem, including a scene where pre-pubescent boys raid one of Van Wilder's parties and end up barfing out of a school bus (but hey, these young boys had the time of their life until then). Richard's fraternity brothers are sent a basket full of éclairs stuffed with juices from a particular dormitory pet. In a knock-off homage to Dumb and Dumber, a character digests a bottle of colon blow right before he is to take a final exam.
The movie rarely takes a breath. It does settle for easy chuckles but goes for the comic gold, pushing past the ribbon of where comedy usually wears out in exhaust. Not every joke works, but you admire the efforts that the filmmakers went to in order to make you laugh. A virgin's first encounter with a girl that culminates in a massage oil rubdown gets more than messy and squanders too much, thus not earning any laughs. A scene where Van Wilder has to charm a raggedy and prunish administrator gets frighteningly explicit and goes on maybe one shot too many. But Van Wilder is always the man of the moment. One of the dorky characters goes to Van Wilder to ask him how to `muff dive.' Ultimately, Van Wilder is king and his rebel-bent philosophy is trippingly funny. At the end, you won't be able to remember all the funny scenes because there are just too many of them.
- Jun 24, 2002