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National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj (2002)


It’s sad that visual jokes about male bodily fluids no longer shock audiences. Now, for films to surprise us, they must include jokes about the fluids of other animals. Van Wilder, the latest installment in the never-ending National Lampoon series, doesn’t stop with just a joke, however. It actually contains a scene wherein characters consume dog semen.

Perhaps in a sick, twisted way, the concept of a person unknowingly consuming animal semen could be somewhat amusing. But actually watching a character manually stimulate a canine with oversized testicles is not funny. The scene continues with the character filling donuts with the ejaculation and then feeding the pastries to his peers. The sequence concludes as characters squirt the contents of the food into their mouths. This is a point when gross-out humor simply becomes too gross to qualify as humor.

Obviously, this film isn’t targeting film scholars, or scholars of any kind… or even most mammals. But even horny, perverted college kids will be disappointed. Sure, there’s plenty of humor involving sex with old ladies, alcohol, drugs, sex toys, and masturbation – but we’ve seen it all before. Even the sex scenes feel tired and contrived. The nudity in so out of place, even the most immature adolescents will acknowledge their awkward gratuitous nature. It’s no fun at all. None of the jokes work. They might have seemed interesting on paper, but the writing never supports the comic momentum with adequate payoff.

The story, as it stands: Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds) is starting his seventh year at Coolidge College, but he’s not planning on graduating any time soon. Armed with a personal assistant and loads of popularity from staff and students alike, he is having the time of his life. Why end it all by graduating? But his father eventually wakes up and stops paying his son’s tuition. What should Van do now? Throw parties, of course. It’s what he does best. People around campus pay him to put on big parties. He makes enough dough to continue blowing off his college experience.

Eventually, he becomes the target of a student journalist named Gwen Pearson (Tara Reid). At first, she hates Van’s cocky attitude, but, as their bickering soon evolves into a blossoming relationship, every soul in the audience will spot the obvious outcome a mile away.

The story itself has no aim or direction. Even recent comedies like Sorority Boys contain a decent comic concept. This film doesn’t even have a tag line. It wanders aimlessly from scene to scene. It has no idea where it’s going or where it’s been. The film initially glorifies Van Wilder’s dysfunctional behavior, then, as the character begins to understand his uneventful past, the movie grows a brain and a heart. Unfortunately, it eventually switches again and supports his irresponsible behavior. The film even concludes that Wilder ‘inspires the uninspired.’ Well, he did inspire me – to keep checking my watch.

The film runs 95 minutes. Why waste precious time on something like this when there are so many better movies out right now. If you are looking for a decent sex comedy, go see 40 Days and 40 Nights, a movie that deals with the comic sexual aspects of youth in a fun an interesting way. It’s actually about something… that is more than I can say about Van Wilder.

Wilder has plenty more to say on one of the most audacious double-disc DVD releases in history — a ballsy collection of extras including deleted scenes, videos, specials, trailers, and even a bustily-designed menu, in which the choices appear on the often-removed-shirt of Wilder player Ivana Bozilovic. The ‘unrated’ disc isn’t especially naughty, but if it’s really raunch you want, it’s raunch you got. (Though beware the alleged bonus ‘topless tutor’ scene — it’s all male, baby!)

For unknown reasons, Van Wilder appears on a second unrated DVD (The Van Gone Wilder Edition), which incorporates an unbelievable, 3-D case with a tank-topped women in all her glory. The scant few additional extras vs. the previous disc (now out of print) may not really merit a buy. (‘Testicles of the Animal Kingdom interactive quiz?’ Er….) But most heinous is that Bozilovic’s menus from the previous disc are nowhere to be found here. Heresy!

Sold, to the freshman in the back row.