Franchises continue to be mined for direct-to-video efforts, with new "American Pie", "Bring It On" and others hitting store shelves ("Bring It On 5" is heading to video soon - I didn't think they could think up that much for rival cheerleader squads to do, but apparently I was mistaken on that.) In terms of "Van Wilder", the original 2002 film became something of a low-budget success, featuring Ryan Reynolds in something of a breakout performance as the coolest kid on campus.
The sequel, "Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj" was a pointless but occasionally funny effort that focused on supporting character Taj, played by Kal Penn (of "Harold and Kumar" fame.) There's even a "Van Wilder" book on store shelves ("How to Graduate College in 8 Years or Less".) This time around, we get a "prequel", with the movie opening as Van Wilder (Jonathan Bennett from "Mean Girls", doing his best Ryan Reynolds impersonation) is graduating high school, leaving the place with a particularly memorable speech to the graduating class before heading off to Amsterdam - although, to his disappointment, without his father, who instead had to go off on business.
Unfortunately, Van Wilder returns to the US and winds up a college headed by Charles Reardon (Kirk Fuller), a dean who hates the Wilders and demands that no drinking or fooling around - everything that Van Wilder stands for - happen on campus. The results are utterly predictable - Van Wilder doesn't exactly like campus policy, and sets out to change the school and the mind of Kaitlin (Kristin Cavallari of MTV's "The Hills"), who's the drill sergeant of the school and the girlfriend of Van Wilder's nemesis.
The movie offers up the usual crude gags - nothing too surprising, although the movie does connect for a few lowbrow laughs. The performances actually are a little better than one might expect from this sort of feature, as Bennett actually does a decent impersonation of Reynolds without completely copying the earlier effort. Cavallari doesn't offer a particularly good performance, but I will give her credit that she manages to do a decent job not portraying the villainess she's known for being.
A trashy, lowbrow goof, "Freshman Year" isn't a great film, nor even as amusing as the original, but Bennett offers an unexpectedly decent performance and generates some mild laughs.
This is the unrated version of the film, which does show nudity in a few scenes.
VIDEO: "Van Wilder: Freshman Year" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is generally above-average, as the picture looked bright and well-defined throughout most of the feature. No edge enhancement or print flaws were spotted, but a few minor traces of edge enhancement were seen at times. Colors remained bright and well-saturated throughout the picture.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was just average, with decent use of the surrounds for some minor ambience and reinforcement of the music. Audio quality was generally okay, but could be a little subpar at times, with louder dialogue and sound effects occasionally sounding a tad tinny.
EXTRAS: Commentary from director Harv Glazer and cast members Jonathan Bennett, Kristin Cavallari, Nic Nac and Steve Talley. The commentary doesn't offer a great deal of information, but everyone does share their fair share of behind-the-scenes stories and they all seem as if they're having fun chatting and joking about the movie.
Also included are a series of short-to-moderate length featurettes: "Creating the Legend: Making of 'Van Wilder: Freshman Year", "Going Balls Out : Colossus", "Coolidge College: Orientation Video", "Decatur" and "Teacher's Pets". Finally, we also get Bloopers, "Van's Party Supplies" and "Pranks 101". "Decatur" is a slightly amusing parody of "The Hills".
Final Thoughts: A trashy, lowbrow goof, "Freshman Year" isn't a great film, nor even as amusing as the original, but Bennett offers an unexpectedly decent performance and generates some mild laughs. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a fine set of extras. Rent it.
The Film C-