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.
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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