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National Lampoon's Van Wilder

As films from the distinguished patronage of National Lampoon go, Van Wilder is unlikely to be listed amongst the classics. Ryan Reynolds stars as the eponymous character, a sort of Ferris Beuller or Max Fisher figure at Coolidge University, where, in his seventh year of enrollment, Van pulls the strings of campus spirit. He raises money, inspires athletes, and throws a bitchin' kegger, all the while not paying too much concern to his accumulating credits and lack of a degree. But when Tara Reid enters the picture as a serious campus journalist charged with profiling Van by her editor, her tight-ass boyfriend deals with Van's threatening influence by conniving the BMOC's expulsion. Van Wilder is a most uninventive comedy, settling for ordinary gags and some belabored, truly unappealing grossness, while also relying far too heavily on other, better recent comedies for material (most notably the films of Adam Sandler, Billy Madison in particular). Van Wilder's only redeeming quality is its two star performers. Reynolds, of ABC's late Two Guys and a Girl, displays the same unruffled charm and flip insincerity as Chevy Chase at his best, and he makes for an appealing comic lead. Reid, meanwhile, continues to distinguish herself as one of the true talents of this new crop of actors, with a deeply felt and beautifully realized portrayal, full of buzzing intellect and dazzling insight. Transforming her cardboard-thin character into an introspective dynamo of personality and emotion, Reid is on course to become the Meryl Streep of her generation. Also with Paul Gleason (who delivers the film's only laugh-out-loud line), Tim Matheson, and MTV's The Real World's Tek, who doesn't suck. Van Wilder is presented by Artisan in a two-disc special edition. Disc One features both R-rated and unrated versions in anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-screen (1.33:1) transfers, and Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. The menu selections for the unrated version are tiny and difficult to read, so puerile purists will want to make sure they have selected properly by looking for nudity within the menu animation as confirmation. However, the two cuts show no difference in running-time, and there is no documentation delineating between the two. Disc Two features a rudimentary set of extras, including nine deleted scenes (of which the "Unrated Exclusive: Additional Topless Tutor scene" is guaranteed to disappoint); 12 outtakes; a Comedy Central featurette; three promos featuring Reid, Reynolds and more; material from National Lampoon's Web site; music features; and a trailer. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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