"VAN WILDER: FRESHMAN YEAR"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Jonathan Bennett as VAN WILDER
Kristin Cavallari as KAITLIN HAYS
Kurt Fuller as DEAN CHARLES REARDON
Steve Talley as DIRK ARNOLD
Jerry Shea as YUM DUM FOK
Directed by: Harvey Glazer
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The cult character of Van Wilder (played by Jonathan Bennett in direct-to-DVD world) had to start his illustrious college career somewhere. This film tells the story about when Van Wilder was a freshman. He enters Coolidge College to find it a school of uptightness, rules and no sex allowed. After taking a shine to an ROTC student named Kaitlin (Kristin Cavallari), Van makes it his mission to liberate the school into a sexual and partying awakening. Soon, he’s at odds with the stuffy Dean Reardon (Kurt Fuller) and Kaitlin’s macho boyfriend.
WHAT I LIKED
I was never a huge fan of the original “Van Wilder” film, so I don’t consider this film to be a huge step down from it. To be honest, I was actually kinda fond of the first sequel, “The Rise of Taj,” which got a theatrical release but really should have just hit the DVD shelves out of the gate. This is a different sort of sequel, telling the questionable origin of Van Wilder rather than attempting a spin-off.
There’s a very limited market for a film like this, but if handled right, it can be a big success in that market. High school and college students are the folks who are going to see this movie, which is the same market for various other direct-to-DVD sequel lines like the “American Pie” DVD titles and the “Bring It On” sequels. I suppose it’s tailor made for these kids because they’re not looking for great story or characters. They’re looking for wacky comedy, sexual innuendo, partying scenes and a healthy dose of boob shots.
In this respect, “Van Wilder: Freshman Year” serves its purpose. The unrated DVD comes with a decent amount of female nudity, which is honestly a deciding factor for people wanting to rent this film. Trust me, they could have been more generous, but it’s not a breast desert out there, either.
If you’re living in a dorm room and drink crappy beer because it’s cheap, you might enjoy this film.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Even though the original “Van Wilder” was no great shakes, and it wasn’t the beginning and the end of comedy, it worked on a certain level. It’s sad to say that “Van Wilder: Freshman Year” doesn’t live up to the quality that Tara Reid laid out in the first film. It has its moments, but when the film tries to force itself into a story with real characters, things do unravel.
I know that no one should ever look at this film under a continuity microscope, but I couldn’t help but notice this film doesn’t even work in its own timeline. With “Van Wilder” releasing in 2002, this film should be taking place in the late 1990s. Yet, cell phones are ever present and they even make a joke about Gitmo. I’m not expecting a “Star Trek” level of internal continuity, but the fact that the writer and director just ignored its own timeline showed they just didn’t care.
Come to think of it, more boobs would have made me look over that faux pas.
There’s a pretty solid slate of DVD features to this release. The standard bits include a commentary with the director and cast, as well as a blooper reel. There’s also featurettes that include “Creating the Legend: The Making of Van Wilder: Freshman Year,” a look at the dog’s junk in “Going Balls Out; Colossus” and an spoof orientation video for Coolidge College.
Taking advantage of the Kristin Cavallari’s reality show experience, there’s a spoof reality show from behind the scenes called “Decatur.” The featurette “Teachers Pets” spotlight the hot, sexy actresses on the shoot, which is always a good thing in my opinion (although I really don’t care about their personalities).
Rounding out the featurettes is a spotlight on the dildos used in one scene and a look at the pranks on set.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
High schoolers and college kids who just can’t get enough of “Van Wilder.”