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DVD Review: Van Wilder: Freshman Year

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When I was a mere lad (14), I was not exactly a good kid. One night, some friends and I headed out to the movies. We told the parental units that we were going to see Ice Age, bought the tickets, and headed into the cinema. However, instead of the movie we bought tickets for, we instead headed over and watched Van Wilder. Ever since that fateful, and lie-filled, night, I have been a fan of this series (and I never have seen any of the Ice Age moves).

Fast forward seven years, to July 14th, 2009. On this date, the third Van Wilder movie was released, straight-to-DVD. Coincidently, the third Ice Age movie has been in the theater for a few weeks now.

Van Wilder: Freshman Year is a prequel to the original movie. It tells the story of Vince Wilder, AKA Van Wilder (portrayed by Jonathan Bennett in this film), as he graduates from high-school (he gets a blowjob while giving a speech) and heads off to college. Like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, Vince is attending Coolidge College. His family is so tied to the college that in Wilder Hall, there is a name plaque waiting for the next Wilder to have his portrait hung over. However, instead of the party schools that it was for his ancestors, Coolidge is now run by the military dictator/dean Charles Reardon (Kurt Fuller), who really didn’t like Van’s father.

When Van arrives at college, he learns that Coolidge is a strict military regime, and that it allows no drinking, partying, or even kissing. There are also a lot of sexually-repressed (hot) Christian girls running around. Of course, Van will not stand for this. Quickly, Mr. Wilder throws parties, invites people, and starts to ‘liberate’ the campus. This brings him up against Dean Reardon, and the Dean's peppy ROTC members. The movie quickly ends up with these two going head-to-head. Oh, and there are a ton of hot, naked chicks who randomly (and pointlessly) appear throughout the film.

If you are sitting around, thinking that Freshman Year is somewhat like Animal House, then you are 100% right. There are chants of “Toga, Toga, Toga”, the crazy dean (though he has a golf cart, not a horse), and a group of very repressed students. Basically, this is a 2009 remake of Animal House, though with lesser actors. It seems as though National Lampoon has a very specific set of guidelines about what has to appear in their movies, and they stick to them: sex, drugs, and rock & roll; booze; jokes about penises and bodily functions; breasts; naked chicks; rear ends; stereotypes; ROTC members who are meat heads; and a crazy dean. Freshman Year certainly hits every item on the list.

Frankly, I was somewhat surprised by the movie, as it actually was decent. I came to the movie expecting a disappointment and a cheap cash-in. I also thought that this would simply be a movie about sex, nudity, and college parties. Instead, I was rewarded with a movie that actually had a decent script, great props, and a sweet storyline. Though there were some problems with the movie, I really liked it.

For starters on the negative side, the actors are not really that great. Bennett plays an interesting Van, and he has Van's chauvinistic mannerisms down perfectly; but, somebody who is 28 really shouldn’t be playing somebody who is 18. Seriously, the age difference shines through like a blazing sun. Van’s love interest, Kaitlin Hays, is played by Kristin Cavallari. Cavallari is a horrible actress, and she really looks quite amateurish in the movie. The only actors that I liked play the ‘evil’ characters – Fuller as the dean, Steve Talley as the ROTC leader, and Nic Nac as his gay sidekick. These actors were the only ones on screen who are any good.

There are also some logical problems with the movie, which did distract me a bit. Freshman Year is supposed to be a prequel to the first movie, so it is set in 1998-99. However, Van has an iPhone, an Xbox 360, and many other items that didn't exist then. This caused me to pause (literally) and ponder how these objects could appear. Additionally, the whole concept of these repressed Christian girls, who immediately become nymphs when introduced to Van, didn’t make any sense. Sure, this is a movie about Van getting laid and having parties, but is it too much to ask to have a logical script?

Normally, I am not that into extras on DVD and Blu-rays, as they tend to be quite useless. However, in Freshman Year, there were a few extras that I found interesting. "Van's Party Supplies" tells of the bongs and dildos that they used in the film, and how they were found. This is a very interesting look at the movie, it actually was captivating—looking at a 4-foot long pink piece of rubber powered by a drill is fascinating. "Teacher's Pet" is a look at the girls of the movie; as a 21-year-old college student, I loved this section. Additionally, there is the always present blooper real. Unlike some blooper reels, in Freshman Year, these are actual bloopers—outtakes from unscripted moments—and are absolute gold.

All-in-all, Freshman Year comes packed with eight extras, giving you an additional hour of material. Besides the three mentioned above, the DVD also comes with: "Creating the Legend: The Making of Van Wilder: Freshman Year," "Going Balls Out: Colossus," "Coolidge College Orientation," "Decatur," and "Prank 101."

Overall, Freshman Year is a decent movie. The story is intriguing, the extras are interesting, and the girls attractive (because, let's face it, the crowd it's aimed at will want that). I had very low expectations coming into this, so the fact that the movie is good really surprised me. I am not sure if I would say that you should buy the movie, as it seems more of a one time thing, but I do believe that it is worth renting.

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About Robert M. Barga