Van Wilder: Party Liaison (15)
Bringing up the rear of the current trend of gross-out comedies is this hybrid of American Pie and Slackers in which newcomer Ryan Reynolds stars as the ultimate student layabout.
Neither as bright as the Farrelly Brothers’ films – principally, There’s Something About Mary – nor as intrinsically funny as American Pie, Van Wilder nevertheless manages to outdo both in the ‘gag’ factor with a welter of bad taste jokes that, perhaps inevitably, involve flatulence, laxatives, vomit, erections, breasts and a bulldog with an unfeasibly large scrotum.
In essence Van Wilder follows in the wake of the Police Academy and frat house comedies of the ‘80s. It is, in fact, the latest offering from the National Lampoon stable and relies heavily on the same type of basic humour that carried the likes of Chevy Chase and Dan Ackroyd through some of their early hits.
Reynolds, a cross between Chevy Chase and Ben Affleck, plays the titular character, a twentysomething Mr Fix-it who is something of a legendary figure among students since he can get anything, fix anything, achieve anything and generally lie, cheat or steal his way to achieving whatever he wants for whomever he wants.
Of course everything changes when he falls in love with the feisty journalist girlfriend of a stiff-necked medical student. Suddenly his interests shift away from scamming the world to proving to Gwen Pearson (Tara Reid, from American Pie) that he’’ not really a waste of time after all.
In the run-up to this unexpected romance Van manages to continue his traditions of doing no work, spending his rich dad’s cash and zooming around the campus in a souped-up golf cart.
He fixes up his Indian P.A. with a voracious all-American girlfriend (“Her name’s Naomi. That’s ‘I moan’ backwards”), deals with a love rival by feeding him laxative before a vital exam, and replaces the cream in a selection of eclairs with something far more disgusting.
And, guess what? It’s belly-burstingly funny, principally because it’s done with an overwhelming arrogance that belies the assumption that audiences don’t enjoy toilet humour. Of course they do, otherwise films like this wouldn’t get off the starting grid.
Reynolds is actually very good, weaving capably between outright insanity and deliberate anarchy, while the supporting cast – Reid, Kal Penn, Daniel Cosgrove and Paul Gleason, the disciplinarian from 1985’s The Breakfast Club – all add to the general quality of the ensemble.
What becomes clear in watching Van Wilder is that smutty comedies often work because their storytelling techniques behind their OTT jokes is pretty watertight.
Certainly the characters in this particular example are well drawn and believable, and the humour, acceptable or otherwise, really works. Throw in some fabulous one-liners – “What a pad. It’s decorated in early fuck”, exclaims one adult – and this rapidly becomes a step above the average teen/sex/comedy.