The title of National Lampoon’s Van Wilder is, of course, meant to evoke memories of a certain other raucous college comedy. Leaving aside that the cachet of the Lampoon logo passed its expiration date somewhere around 1984, is there really an army of teenagers out there pining for the cozy old anarchy of ”Animal House”-era high jinks? Back then, the hero of ”Van Wilder” would probably have been described as a ”big man on campus.” Van, who is in his seventh year as an undergraduate, is a Lacoste-wearing preppie who tools around Coolidge College in a custom golf cart and deflects everyone in his path with an attitude of debauched nonchalance that was funny when Chevy Chase first tried it on more than 20 years ago in ”Caddyshack.” The only thing funny now is how harmless it all seems.
As Van, Ryan Reynolds, with his air-popped suavity, suggests the son of John Lithgow pretending to be Rob Lowe portraying Ferris Bueller. ”Van Wilder” is studded with Lampoon/John Hughes anachronisms, notably the look-at-how-racist-we-can-be caricature of Van’s Indian assistant. The only thing in the movie that feels at all contemporary, apart from the appearance of Hollywood’s prettiest bad actress, Tara Reid, is a gag that’s gross enough to cross over into something that even Tom Green might not consider doing with bulldog semen.