Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Walt Becker
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Tara Reid, Tim Matheson
Yet another teen movie? National Lampoon returns to the world of fraternity house parties and the wild antics of university students for the first time since the cult favourite Animal House (1978), which then set the standard for sophomoric teen comedies. But, despite the presence of Tim Matheson, who was an integral part of that seminal comedy, Van Wilder: Party Liaison is very much an inferior effort.
Any vaguely worthwhile, positive message about living up to one’s potential and discovering one’s place in the world, is lost amidst a plethora of low brow humour that runs the gamut from fart jokes and scatological humour, through to a crude obsession with genitalia, bowel movements and other bodily fluids. A few visual gags are quite good, but this no-brainer comedy is aimed purely at adolescent boys and lowest common denominator audiences.
Unsure of what he wants to do with his life, spoiled rich kid Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds, best known for his role on tv sitcom Two Guys And A Girl) has remained at Coolidge College for the past seven years, reluctant to graduate. But when his father (Matheson) cuts off his funds in an effort to force his son to grow up and face up to his responsibilities, Van Wilder becomes desperate to find a way to remain in this comfortable environment. Help comes when his penchant for organising killer fraternity parties becomes something of a cash cow for Van Wilder and his cohorts. Gwen (American Pie‘s Tara Reid), a journalist for the college newspaper, does a human interest story on him.
But what initially starts out as an adversarial relationship between the two soon softens and develops into something else as she tries to get Van Wilder to live up to his potential. But some mean spirited preppies try to sabotage Van’s plans and have him expelled from college.
First time feature director Walt Becker handles the material competently enough, and wrings plenty of laughs from some formulaic routines. In his first feature film role, Reynolds has a swaggering and affable presence that makes the potentially disagreeable character both charismatic and likeable. Reid however has a fairly one-dimensional presence and fails to bring much life to her character.
Written by Brent Goldberg and David Wagner (the team behind the short film spoof Saving Ryan’s Privates, which is the net’s most downloaded short film) Van Wilder: Party Liaison is aimed at a slightly older audience than many recent adolescent-themed comedies. Those who found the recent Not Another Teen Movie and Sorority Boys too infantile for their taste may find Van Wilder more to their liking.