What’s the point in denoting that a DVD is unrated? Why not just call it softcore porn and get straight to the point? It’s too bad Ryan Reynolds is too busy making out with Sandra Bullock and dressing up as superheroes to reprise his role as Van Wilder. Director Mort Nathan played it safe with Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj – no Reynolds, no Van. Unfortunately Van Wilder: Freshman Year director Harv Glazer didn’t get the memo.
It doesn’t take long for the film’s raunch factor to kick in full force. While making a speech at his high school graduation, Van gets a little congratulatory gift under the podium. After his high school career comes to an end, Van spends the summer in Amsterdam before arriving at the coveted Coolidge College. Sadly, Coolidge isn’t the place we remember from the original film. The super strict Dean Charles Reardon has turned the campus into a militaristic establishment barring kissing, booze and partying. With the help of his pot loving roommate Farley and a random Chinese exchange student meant to emulate the original Van Wilder’s trusty sidekick Taj, Van sets out to turn the sexually-repressed campus into the college we know and love. Luckily for Van, the most difficult part of this transformation would be getting the beautiful religious fanatics to go bad. Imagine if they were ugly?
Cue the love interest. Kaitlyn Hayes strikes Van’s fancy and just so happens to be dating the lead cadet in the dean’s ROTC program. Isn’t it great how nicely this all works out? Van has a gorgeous girl to pursue and even has a meathead boyfriend to play tricks on. Wait, something is missing. Colossus! Even before his cannoli tainting days Van’s dog knew a few unpleasant tricks. At this point, anyone who’s seen Van Wilder can pick out some major similarities. Writer Todd McCullough seems to have just recycled the original script, throwing in the ROTC element to earn it a new title.
Just as wooden as the script are most of the performances. Forget Kaitlyn Hayes, Kristin Cavallari was playing her character from MTV’s The Hills, Kristin Cavallari. She’s pretty and entertaining on a reality TV show but an acting career is not in her future. She comes across as a high school student given a free A in drama class to fill a vacant role in the school play, only instead of an A, Cavallari got her face in a few more tabloid magazines. Bennett gives Van his best shot, but can’t pull it off like Reynolds. He’s certainly trying and that’s the problem; he’s trying noticeably too hard stripping any chance of earning his character audience sympathy.
At first glance, you think Steve Talley was cast in the film because they couldn’t sucker most-hated-boyfriend-portrayer Rob Hoffman into joining the cast. Dirk ends up being the most likeable character simply because Talley shows off a hint of talent. His tubby sidekick Benedict (Nic Nac) even evokes some laughs.
What it comes down to is we’ve all been there and done that. Unless you’re bringing back the original characters that made Van Wilder a hit, leave the series alone. Van Wilder: Freshman Year is for two types of people, those with softcore porn addictions and teenagers who really think college is how it’s portrayed in the movies. The highlight of this film are the credits. Not only do they signify the end of the film, but they’re also shown alongside a blooper reel. Everyone involved in this film regains a drop of my respect when Nic Nac pokes fun at Mean Girls and The Hills.
Watching the DVD commentary for a bad film is normally a sad experience. Isn’t it terrible to think so many people worked so hard on a production just to end up with horrible content? In Van Wilder: Freshman Year’s case, no sympathy is necessary. Harv Glazer and the cast had such a great time making the film, they show not hints of embarrassment while providing their insight alongside the film. The commentary is more like a group of high school friend recounting a night of drunken antics than a group of professional actors discussing the production process. The highlight of this portion of the DVD is some minor Lindsay Lohan bashing and Kristin Cavallari announcing this will be the final Van Wilder movie. Maybe she’s brighter than I thought!
“Creating the Legend: The Making of Van Wilder: Freshman Year” is just a chance for the actors to state the obvious. We already know this is the third Van Wilder film and that it’s a prequel and the script is a recycled version of the original film, so it’s not necessary to break down the plot. Skip all the junk and just get to the part when Nic Nac and Steve Talley pick on The Hills. You know, maybe they should have dedicated an entire featurette to The Hills and Mean Girls bashing.
I’m a sucker for anything involving a dog, but the cast’s insight tramples all over “Going Balls Out: Colossus.” The Van Wilder series may be all about the laughs, but a featurette about a dog doesn’t need manmade jokes. The whole ‘this dog is the biggest star here’ bit is so cliché. People are actually interested in what it’s like working with an animal, especially one as lovable as Champ, also known as Colossus.
“Coolidge College: Orientation Video” is a string of video from the end of each actor’s on-set interview during which they are completely put on the spot and asked to go back into character to talk about what Coolidge College means to them. Who came up with this idea? This piece should have been a mock school orientation film created by Van Wilder. Nobody cares what the dean thinks of the school; people watching this film want to see more drunken antics and girls!
Should Kristin Cavallari really be making fun of reality television when she’s taking over as the head of The Hills gang? Not to mention the fact that if it weren’t for Laguna Beach she’d probably be lacking an entertainment career. “Decatur” (the name of the town the film was made in) is a mock reality show starring the cast of the film. The lower third titles are funny for an instant, but the whole concept becomes tiresome way too quickly. If the cast was that desperate to poke fun at Cavallari’s claim to fame, it should have been given a five-minute maximum.
When a comedy’s bloopers are bad, you know there’s a problem. How can someone strip the enjoyment out of seeing a cast screw up over and over again? The whole reel is just a bunch of giggling and expletives. Things start to look up with “Van’s Party Supplies.” It’s got some of the typical sex jokes you’d expect, but there’s a bit of a serious nature to this featurette, which is ironic considering it details what it took to accumulate a massive supply of dildos and some of the most ornate bongs ever created. It’s short and to the point making it more watchable than any of the other special features thus far. “Pranks 101” is slightly enjoyable as well. The cast recalls pranks of their youth, some of which are impressively creative. The only one who has a brain fart during this segment is Cavallari who can only talk about TPing a house as a teen. She can’t remember anything else? Wasn’t high school just yesterday in her case? Even Kurt Fuller comes up with a better memory!
The disc’s grande finale is an awkwardly selected buffet of reviews. You think you’re in for a slew of ultra crude partying films with Without a Paddle: Nature’s Call and National Lampoon’s Stoned Age but then the preview montage switches gears and throws in box office hits Eagle Eye and I Love You, Man. The cuisine goes from fine to fast food with Road Trip: Beer Pong and then reverts back to the good stuff with Tropic Thunder. For dessert it’s The Hills: The Complete Fourth Season. I don’t see how all of this material appeals to the audience of Van Wilder: Freshman Year, but I also don’t understand how some people enjoy ham and pineapple on their pizza. To each his own.