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Van Wilder: Freshman Year - Unrated
Please forgive my written weariness with this review, but I just watched "Van Wilder: Freshman Year," and I can't believe I've voluntarily sat through three of these pictures. Three! It's a cruel world out there if we can't get a "Rocketeer" sequel, yet are forced to suffer the indignity of three atrocious "Van Wilder" movies. The kicker? "Freshman Year" is a reboot of the franchise. The producers (the guys who had their sense of humor surgically removed years back) have zeroed in on DTV "American Pie" money, looking to rebuild the bruised "Van Wilder" brand name with a whole new cast, time frame and exhibition reality, ready to offer no-budget, brain-dead laughs to any sucker willing to offer 100 minutes of their precious life to such indefatigable garbage.
Fresh from high school, Van Wilder (Jonathan Bennett) is off to Coolidge College to fulfill his educational family legacy. Making himself comfortable on campus with pothead roommate Farley (Nestor Aaron Absera) and hyper Asian student Yu Dum Fuk (Jerry Shea), Wilder finds his comfort disrupted by Dean Reardon (Kurt Fuller), who loathes the Wilder name. Finding some comfort in the company of Kaitlin Hays (Kristin Cavallari), Wilder instead enrages her ROTC boyfriend Dirk (Steve Tally), who conspires with Dean Reardon to outwit Wilder and have him thrown out of school. Wilder, sensing trouble, turns on his gift for pranks and proceeds to make life hell for his enemies.
After the artistic implosion and box office failure of 2006's "The Rise of Taj," I assumed it was all over for the "Van Wilder" franchise. And it was, in a weird way, with "Freshman Year" halting the forward momentum and returning the concept to square one. Unable to convince Ryan Reynolds to return to a role he's always appeared embarrassed by, the producers have brought Bennett in to conjure up some stuttery mimicry. It's a terrible mistake. Reynolds could never be replaced and Bennett is trapped doing an abysmal impression rather than building his own take on the character. An even more egregious "Freshman Year" error? Hiring the director of "Kickin' it Old Skool" to oversee this tripe.
Billed as "A Harv Glazer Film" (what does that even mean?), I'm hard-pressed to understand why the filmmaker would want to assume credit for such a cruddy, bottom-feeding motion picture. While originality was always a pipe dream, "Freshman Year" is nothing more than a parade of dreary gross-out gags and naked breasts, held together by an obnoxious DTV ambiance that encourages the actors to bellow as broadly as possible. Glazer tries to sand down the rough edges with some "Malcolm in the Middle" visual stylistics, but the effort is confusing, lost within a screenplay fixated on two things: rehashing "Van Wilder" and rehashing "Van Wilder" poorly.
Bennett's photocopied arch performance is perhaps the least of the problems "Freshman Year" faces. The picture is brutal with the low-brow stuff, taking great pleasure in fecal, snot, and homophobic jokes, building to prank set pieces that often, and I can't believe I'm writing this, make no sense. "Freshman Year" doesn't exist in a world of logic, but one of gags executed, preferably by any means necessary. It's hard to argue with a film that prizes bare breasts above all else, but "Freshman Year" doesn't even have the sense to pin joy to nudity, instead making the whole endeavor feel like a dirty joke told by the creep in the room everyone's been instructed to avoid. Combine the soulless boobies (some of these girls look too wild-eyed for comfort, perhaps drugged?) to scenes of beer waterboarding, Dean Reardon receiving oral sex from Wilder's large-testicled dog Colossus, and the very idea of a character named Yo Dum Fuk, and here's a repellent picture. An ideal Redbox evening for self-loathing masochists or the stoned.
And then there's this unpleasant Cavallari lady to deal with, who has all the screen presence of bored Gap clerk. I suppose anyone can be an actress these days. Who really needs talent? Thanks, MTV.
The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1 aspect ratio) is suitable for the low-budget film, with heavy attention paid to bursting colors and appealing skintones. Black levels hold reasonable consistency, maintaining the heightened atmosphere of collegiate silliness. It's nothing remarkable to look at, but the DVD keeps the film crisp and detailed.
Don't worry fans, the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix retains the delightful squishes, squirts, and slurps of the bodily fluids. While a standard mix of uneventful surround activity and crunchy soundtrack selections, the track is best when providing sonic detail to the pranks, through some low-end vibrator rumbling or goopy liquid manipulation.
English, French, and Spanish subtitles are offered.
There's a feature length audio commentary from director Harvey Glazer and actors Nic Nac, Steve Tally, Jonathan Bennett, and Kristin Cavallari. Truthfully, I only gave this track 20 minutes to prove itself, fearing any more time spent around "Freshman Year" might lead to actual physical damage. Aside from the annoying fact the commentary is out of sync for the first five minutes, the group fancies themselves a team of comedians, cracking jokes about the making of the film. Much like the picture, the crew isn't funny. Instead, the commentary is a cacophony of screeching voices competing for air time. Even worse, the "talent" is drinking, further encouraging their stupidity. Don't waste your time.
"Creating the Legend: The Making of 'Van Wilder: Freshman Year'" (17:37) walks through the plot and BTS hijinks, interviewing the cast and crew on their experience making the movie. Again, everybody thinks they're hilarious, so don't expect much in the way of production insight.
"Going Balls Out: Colossus" (2:57) introduces the world to Champ, the canine actor who portrays the pooch with the huge set of balls. It's a jokey featurette, but it does highlight how much attention Champ received during his time on set.
"Coolidge College: Orientation Video" (3:23) asks the cast to slip into character and describe what the college experience means to them. DVD producers have too much free time on their hands. How about some extra effort keeping the DVD commentary in sync, guys?
"Decatur" (9:02) is a lampoon of the rancid reality show world created by the likes of "Laguna Beach" and "The Hills." Obviously, Cavallari is the star of this satire. And once again, everyone thinks they're a laugh riot. Imagine if real comedians were cast in this movie. Imagine...
"Teacher's Pets" (2:36) focuses on the horde of nubile extras who clamor for background screentime. While IQ levels remain in a flatline state, the featurette provides more lowbrow titillation for those in search of cheap thrills.
"Outtakes" (6:59) is a long ride of mix-em-ups, most centered on the improvisation skills of the actors. And here I thought all the bloopers were in the movie already.
"Van's Party Supplies" (3:58) interviews Shawn Gray, the property master on "Freshman Year," and the guy with the assignment of gathering dildos for one of Wilder's more surreal pranks. Gray's also in charge of the various bongs used during the production.
"Pranks 101" (3:47) talks to the cast about the practical jokes they've pulled on friends, family, and enemies.
A Trailer has not been included.
Concluding with a war game scenario that has Wilder "out partying" his enemies, "Freshman Year" closes on a disturbing note of promise. Seems there's a refueled tank of inspiration for the "Van Wilder" saga, now ready to follow the college years nobody asked to visit in the first place. To those who enjoy these crude monstrosities, enjoy the ride. It won't end soon. For me, it's three strikes and I'm out. Watching a dumb comedy shouldn't feel like a swan dive into a swimming pool filled with razor wire.