No other film genre has had as many direct-to-DVD sequels or prequels to hit films than raunchy sex comedies. The perfect example of this is the long list of American Pie films. Back in 2002, a film called National Lampoon’s Van Wilder became a hit, mainly because of the performance of its star, Ryan Reynolds. Four years later, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj had a less than stellar bow in theaters and it featured Van Wilder’s old sidekick from the first film, Taj (still played by Kal Penn). Now both actors have moved on to bigger and better things, but that won’t stop a new direct-to-DVD prequel called Van Wilder: Freshman Year from being released in 2009.
In this direct-to-DVD prequel, we learn that Van Wilder (Jonathan Bennett) is a rich kid, and his father (Linden Ashby) insists he attend Coolidge College, the school all the Wilders have attended and endowed over the years. Wilder Hall enshrines the former Wilder graduates, and there’s a placeholder there for Van. The only problem is that Coolidge College is not the big party school it once was. Today, the uptight, self-righteous Dean (Kurt Fuller) forbids smoking, drinking, drugs, and kissing. Van is not pleased. So he sets out to bring sex and alcohol to the ultraconservative, religious institution and make everyone happy again.
The plot of this film is pretty much a rip-off of the original Van Wilder with storylines from Animal House and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off thrown in for good measure. It also really doesn’t know what type of film it wants to be. At first, this film is your typical sex comedy, but then it turns into a romantic comedy halfway through. It doesn’t do either film genre that well. Much of this film is nothing more than the usual grossness, sex gags, sexual innuendo, nudity, and profanity. Nothing you really haven’t seen before, and you will probably only laugh if you a hardcore fan of the above.
It doesn’t help that the acting is not that great either. Jonathan Bennett is decent enough as the lead here, but he is no Ryan Reynolds. Unfortunately, all of the characters and actors that play those characters surrounding him, aren’t that strong. Pretty much every other character is a stereotype from Van’s roommate, Farley Marley (Nestor Aaron Absera), a white pothead who talks like a black Jamaican to Van’s new friend Yu Dum Fuk (Jerry Shea), who is the standard Chinese exchange student who is desperate to have sex. You also knew there had to be a love interest and this one is played by Kristin Cavallari of MTV’s Laguna Beach and The Hills fame. Her performance is about as good as Tara Reid, which is not saying much. Guess what? She is also dating a militant Hitler thug who is a jerk and wants to get rid of Van Wilder. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.
This film was created for a certain audience. If you enjoy sex comedies, this might be worth checking out. However, Van Wilder: Freshman Year doesn’t really know if it wants to be that kind of film or not. There is nothing here that you haven’t seen before. If you enjoyed the original Van Wilder, you probably won’t enjoy this film since it’s really the same film with not as good acting. Van Wilder: Freshman Year is also not that great of a prequel, since it doesn’t really matter what happens in this film, because we know that the Van Wilder in the original film is the same as the Van Wilder in this film. That basically means this film is definitely skippable material.
The video included is available in widescreen color presented at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs. The quality is pretty good with some slight graininess noticeable in some scenes. No major problems, though, and about on par with other new direct-to-DVD releases.
The audio included is available in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear, so no major problems here either. Again, just what you expect from a film like this.
Audio Commentary –
There is a full-length audio commentary with the director, Harv Glazer, and all of the major cast members chatter. Nothing very insightful is said during this commentary, but they are entertaining to listen to. Still nothing you have to go out of your way to listen.
“Creating The Legend: The Making of Van Wilder Freshman Year” Featurette –
This runs 17 minutes and it’s your standard “making of” featurette. The usual cast and crew interviews are included here where they try to sell this film.
“Going Balls Out: Colossus” Featurette –
This runs 3 minutes and it’s all about the bulldog featured in the film and his recognizable body part.
“Coolidge College: Orientation Video” –
This runs 3 minutes and it has all the characters and actors talking about the fictional college used in this film.
“Decatur” Featurette –
This runs 9 minutes and it features the cast on location filming in Decatur, Georgia. This is basically a Hills spoof starring Kristin. Fairly funny.
“Teacher’s Pets” Featurette –
This runs 2 minutes and it’s all about the girls in the movie.
“Van’s Party Supplies” Featurette –
This runs 4 minutes and it’s all about the various sex toys used in the film.
“Pranks 101” Featurette –
This runs 4 minutes and it’s all about the pranks that the actors pulled on each other.
There is 7 minutes worth of bloopers and gags from the filming of this film.
If you like Jonathan Bennett or Kristin Cavallari, you might want to check this one out. But all others will want to pass. Even hardcore sex comedy fans will probably be disappointed with this film as well. Just don’t expect much.
Paramount Home Entertainment presents Van Wilder: Freshman Year. Directed by Harv Glazer. Starring Jonathan Bennett, Kristin Cavallari, Steve Talley, Kurt Fuller, and Linden Ashby. Written by Todd McCullough. Running time: 100 minutes. UNRATED. Released on DVD: July 14, 2009.
Available at Amazon.com
Tags: American Pie, Kal Penn, Ryan Reynolds, The Hills