National Lampoon's Van Wilder

National Lampoon's Van Wilder (2002)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Tara Reid, Tim Matheson
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Music Video, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, TV Specials, Game

From the same director who brought the recent blockbuster "Wild Hogs" to the screen, Walt Becker, we have a film released in 2002 called "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" which has developed something of a rabid cult following for reasons that escape me, and this version we are reviewing is the 'Unrated Version'.

The film basically centers around the childish antics of Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds) who has become so comfortable with his college partying lifestyle that he has been there for seven years. Extremely popular, he spends his days and nights using his charisma and charm to make himself a part of every aspect of college life, including joining various student activities and 'fundraisers' like nude jogging and things of that nature. He even has a personal assistant every year, after taking applications and doing interviews with an odd assortment of characters. He eventually ends up with Taj Mahal Badalandabad played with stereotypical goofiness by Kal Penn.

Together they set up some rather elaborate plans to make money after his father, Vance Wilder Sr. (Tim Matheson) makes a firm decision to cut his son's tuition funds after finding out he hasn't graduated. Some of these plans include such unfunny and childish antics, such as 'topless tutors', and charging money for huge and outrageous parties that get predictably out of control. Let's not forget his English bulldog, and some of the ways that they use this animal to play disgusting pranks.

Only when a young journalist named Gwen Pearson (Tara Reid) decides to expose the truth behind the legendary career student, does he start to take stock of what he is doing and where his life is headed. For some reason, probably her beauty, he falls for her, but really she appears to be in a Xanex stupor throughout the whole film. And I don't blame her. Her boyfriend is a typically snobbish frat boy named Richard Bagg (Daniel Cosgrove) who goes through the film being predictably unlikable and fiendish. What can she see in such a guy? From here it is a war between the two over the affections of a woman seemingly medicated, but with an occasional sparkle in her eye.

This is a difficult movie to sit through, it was written by two guys named Brent Goldberg and David Wagner. I found it disgusting and not very funny. I don't get it. It doesn't appear to have any redeeming value, and I even tried to find it funny.

Although I do like Ryan Reynolds somewhat, I find his cocky and self assured performance actually quite good, this film just seems terribly written. When done right, like in "40 Year Old Virgin" or "Fast Times At Ridgemont High"; even "American Pie" had it's moments. And let's not forget "Animal House". These types of screwball grossout comedies are not beneath me, but I truly don't understand the appeal of this film, and the whole thing with the dog, I mean, come on! Place me on the side that wishes they had never even heard of "Van Wilder".

Now the transfer itself is actually somewhat of a surprise. I say that because since it is a 50 GB release, I expected it to look great. But it doesn't. It is extremely uneven. While a few of the scenes pop out and show decent depth, most of the film simply looks flat and washed out. The background should have a ton of details, but instead, it is difficult to make out. Not to mention a scene in a skating rink that has so much video noise it is simply crawling all over the place. It almost appears that no one has given a final quality check before they released this upon the audience. This is the worst high definition transfer I have ever witnessed. Customers should demand more and LionsGate should remaster it and re-release it. The film seldom looks better than a DVD and it is truly riddled with flaws. It is presented in 16×9 (1:85.1) and fills the whole screen.

As for the audio, it is actually better than I had expected. It comes to us in a 7.1 PCM track that actually has a lot of depth and uses the surrounds frequently and effectively. The base response seems decently active, although it really only kicks in during some music sequences. By the way I really don't care for any of the music used in this film, but if any of my favorite bands were on this soundtrack, I would stop buying their records. Also the voices and dialogue come through very clearly and are easily distinguished. A top notch audio presentation, for the most part.

Now, if you are a fan of this film and also enjoy special features with the same type of obnoxious humor, you are in for a real treat. This disc has a ton of them. It has all of the features from the two-disc 2006 DVD edition. It says "Special Features are not rated and may be in standard definition" but they can take the "may be" out of that disclaimer, because they are all standard definition. First up we have 'Drunken Idiot Commentary' which is just as it sounds. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind wasted commentaries. I loved Ben Affleck's wit during the Criterion release of "Armageddon". I also was impressed with Abel Ferrara's commentary on "Driller Killer", not to mention Hunter S. Thompson during…well anything he comments on I guess. But this is really not a fun affair, it makes your living room turn into some sort of frat house, but, for the record, it is an interesting idea, even if they didn't really pull it off effectively.

Next up is 'Party Legends, Pledges and "Bull"ies' which is another one of those typical features where everyone involved praises everything and everyone. Yawn inducing, even though it lasts no longer than fifteen minutes.

'Ultimate College Party Guide' lasts about five minutes and is really nothing more than a description of the way a party is planned in the film from the perspective of a partier.

'Gwen-ezuma's Revenge' an extended look at a notoriously disgusting prank in the film, about nine minutes of 'Deleted Scenes', about fifteen minutes of outtakes, all of them about as amusing as the film itself.

Probably the best special features are a group of promotional materials called 'Burly TV Specials', there are three of them. The first is called 'Half Baked' and is basically a phony cooking show with the two main stars (Reynolds and Reid). 'Imposter' is a spoof on those reality dating shows, and 'Movie Junky' is an interview segment. We also have a 'Reel Comedy: National Lampoon's Van Wilder' episode from Comedy Central. Comedy Central has probably played the film more times than 'Stairway To Heaven' has been played on FM radio. Let's not forget we have a couple of text based extras that are embarrassing to even mention, especially 'Testicles of the Animal Kingdom-Interactive Quizzicle' and 'Write That Down-Quotes From and Inspired by the Film'. And, thank goodness, the final special feature is exclusive to this dismal Blu-ray release 'Van Wilder Blu Book Exam: Exclusive Blu Ray Interactive Game' which seems to be some sort of trivia based game geared toward the sort who have seen the movie countless times.

And that wraps up the exhausting list of special features. If you already own this on DVD, skip this high definition release because it is nothing special. In fact, if you are so inclined, get rid of the two-disc edition also and forget about this movie. That is something I am going to try to do immediately. The film presentation on this Blu ray doesn't merit an upgrade in any case. I have no idea, other than the sound, why they chose this as a 50 GB release, I certainly can't see anything special about it. Fans of the film will probably feel let down, especially if they are buying the Blu-ray thinking it will be the ultimate edition of the film. Best to stay away until they fix this one up.