-By David Noh

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Here we go again with another comically scamming hero in a college setting. Only this time--wait for it--it's superannuated Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds), who has been enjoying the cushy academic life for seven years and now must find a way to stay on for an eighth, since his father (Tim Matheson) has refused to pay for another semester. Van has created an "enviable" campus existence for himself, as party liaison, but is brought romantically down by Gwen (Tara Reid), who is working on a school-paper expos of him.

Picture that unaccountably beloved Ferris Bueller a few years down the road and you get the gist of National Lampoon's Van Wilder. Also, as performed by Reynolds, Van is the feyest cool cat to come down the youth pike since Matthew Broderick wrapped his hair in a towel turban, lip-synched Wayne Newton's "Danke Schöen," and played cutesy-poo with Mommy and Daddy Bueller. The film attempts to lovingly reference National Lampoon's Animal House, but strangely comes off as a kingdom more mild than wild. It's not for lack of trying, however, as scripters Brent Goldberg and David Wagner and director Walt Becker pull out all the gross-out stops, from the first scene involving a female Chinese tailor in a "fellatial" position to an incontinent bulldog. Reid, having survived Josie and the Pussycats, a summer with Lizzie Grubman and her relationship with Carson Daly, brings her usual crack-voiced, less-than-fresh nymphet technique, as a romantic lead whose innate been-there/downed-that quality is a fit match for old Van himself. The one we really feel for here, however, is cinematographer James Bagdonas, who also photographed the concurrent Slackers. How many ways can you actually shoot a dog's butt?

--David Noh

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