During my years at college in Philadelphia, there was a guy who lived at the end of the freshman hall whom had been around far longer than any other freshman. He gathered a following and essentially coached his young ones, myself included, on how to have fun on and off campus. As National Lampoon’s Van Wilder began to spin, I couldn’t help but remember those glorious days and revere Van as he celebrated his life at Coolidge College.
Van Wilder, played perfectly by Ryan Reynolds, returns to Coolidge for y…t another semester of parties, personal secretaries and golf carts. What makes Van Wilder stand out against his fellow students is that this is his seventh straight year in attendance. Over those years, he’s become an icon of the school and in a sense, treated like a god. Jocks love him, geeks count on him and women melt before him. Of course, no one can stay in school forever and it takes the hotness of Tara Reid to ultimately show Van what life has to offer.
I, like others I’m sure, expected to see a lot more of Tara on the screen. She popped up here and there but for the most part was fairly quiet and non-engaging. When she finally appeared in a bikini-top, it was the last scene of the movie – and short at that. Her image was used to help sell this film and I fear her fans will be disappointed by her performance and exposure.
Fear not, for there are other hot women abound in Van Wilder besides Tara which help pick up the slack. Combining them with a couple great gags including bulldog sperm and topless tutors, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder definitely has its moments but ultimately falls flat against its great predecessors such as Animal House and Vacation. If you do give this disc a spin, be on the lookout for some great cameos from eighties stars in familiar roles.
National Lampoon’s features are not known for their spectacular audio tracks and Van Wilder is no exception. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix uses the surrounds sparsely and might as well be non-existent. Voices do carry well through the center mix though and low-end frequencies are tested a couple times, especially as the big guy takes his belly-first plunge into the swimming pool from the high dive.
Included on the first disc are both an Anamorphic 1-85:1 and a full-screen transfer. Upon viewing the widescreen version, I was unable to find any real highlights in the transfer. Neither the colors nor dark levels seem to reach their full potential. I noticed a few instances of compression artifacts and edge enhancement along the way but not enough to issue a warning. Overall the transfer is mediocre at best.
Released as a two-disc edition, the second disc was reserved for a slew of extra features, warranted or not. Kicking off the extras are ten deleted scenes and a slew of outtakes, which some are also available during the credits of the film. There are a few chuckles here but nothing you should go out of your way to view. Next up is a barrage of featurettes, including the Burly Bear Specials, Half Baked Special, Imposter, Music and Music Videos and a series of Interviews. Once you’ve viewed all the video material its time for some text-based education, including cast and crew biographies, DVD credits, production material, an art gallery, and the clever Van Wilder Files. Last but not least are trailers, TV spots and promotional material.
The greatest extra of this disc are buried within the menus themselves. Nestled neatly in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen is a icon that allowed me to toggle between censored and uncensored menus. Now who on earth would even consider selecting the censored menus? I of course immediately selected uncensored and prowled around both disc one and two. The reward was straight-forward and exactly what guys who watch National Lampoon features want to see: breasts. There are many pairs to find so take your time uncovering them.
With all this material it’s hard to imagine a casual viewer taking the time to go through it all for this type of film, but it’s also admirable that Artisan is looking to take DVDs in general to the next level.
National Lampoon’s Van Wilder was touted as the second coming of Animal House; a new romp for this generations youth. I’d be lucky to find one person in ten thousand that agrees with that statement, but Van Wilder does have it moments of fun. I might have rated this two-disc edition ‘borrow’ had it not been for the clever menus, but those alone are worth a little time to play around with. Give Van Wilder a rent if you get a chance and ask yourself, what would college have been like with a personal golf cart to get around campus?
Special Features List
- Option to see topless menus
- “Topless Tutors” deleted scene
- Deleted scenes
- Comedy Central
- “Sugarcult” music video