A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a review of the unrated DVD and not the R-rated version from theaters. This youth-baiting sex comedy is centered on "fornication," partying, drugs, and humiliation-revenge as key parts of the college experience. Much female cleavage and toplessness, and even "abstaining" students (the girls, anyway) are practically nymphomaniacs when tempted. Religious types and military (with a few exceptions) are depicted as immoral right-wing hostiles, compared to the freewheeling title dude, whose anything-goes lifestyle is made to look heroic. Profanity is not nonstop but plentiful enough. Seeing other Van Wilder movies isn't necessary for following the, er, intricacies of the narrative.
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What's the story?
VAN WILDER: FRESHMAN YEAR is a prequel, obviously to National Lampoon's Van Wilder. Even as he's graduating from high school, preppie top-dog Van Wilder (Jonathan Bennett) is such a sexual champion that while delivering the commencement address he enjoys oral sex under his robes from a girl classmate. The cocky teen, like all the men in his illustrious family, enters Coolidge College, where the wealthy, fun-loving Wilders have played key roles for generations. But the onetime "party school" has unexpectedly gone ultra-conservative, restricting alcohol and drugs and preaching that sex is sinful and forbidden. Stuck in a strict ROTC unit under the command of his father's old enemy, a nasty military colonel, Van Wilder still finds ways to rebel and party.
Is it any good?
The Christian-bashing is labored, and even the gross-out and body-function stuff isn't terribly creative by 21st-century standards. Timeliest bit: a takeoff on controversial US military “waterboarding” torture tactics with captives. Only here it's beer-boarding, har-har.
You don't really have to have seen the previous Van Wilder and VW: Rise of Taj movies to follow this one, just understand it's a lower-class (in every way) edition of the establishment-undermining bad manners and collegiate milieu of National Lampoon's Animal House. Van Wilder started out as a National Lampoon property, sort of a next-generation-Animal House, but that once-great humor magazine seems to have seen fit to take its name off the property -- a warning sign indeed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the concept of the "Big Man on Campus" -- not terminology employed here, but the underlying motif of the whole Van Wilder movie series. An American icon going back for generations, the BMOC is the ultra-cool, smooth school-society leader and "fixer" who seems to get away with everything. Compare Van Wilder particularly with the more family-friendly Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Is Van the kind of guy that Ferris will grow up to become?
Ask kids if they enjoy this kind of extreme-sex comedy and why. Do they believe that college is really like this?
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