The charming Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds) has attended Coolidge College for seven years and knows all the ins and outs of student life at that college. He's upbeat, throws the wildest parties and is pretty much just an all-around awesome guy loved by all. Van is just simply...the man.
After a series of comedic incidents, his father finds out that Van has been wasting his life at college and cuts him off from the college fund. Now Van has only a few months left to graduate and win the heart of a journalism major Gwen Pearson (Tara Reid). However, she's dating an arrogant medical student who is trying to get Van expelled. Hilarity Ensues.
The 2002 film is another entry in the National Lampoon movies. While it had a low budget and negative critical reviews, Ryan Reynolds managed to pull off the silly gags with flying colors, and it did pretty well at the box office. Unfortunately, it spawned an even less successful spin-off sequel Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj and a direct-to-DVD prequel Van Wilder: Freshman Year.
- Actor Allusion/Casting Gag:
- Paul Gleason is once again a teacher with a problem with one particular student.
- Tim Matheson, who plays Van's father in the first film, was quite the party animal himself in his day if we're not mistaken.
- As was Curtis Armstrong a.k.a. "Booger".
- Linden Ashby (Van Wilder Sr. in Freshman Year) was every bit as snarky and cocky, and prone to Lampshade Hanging in his role as Johnny Cage as Reynolds's Van Wilder.
- Artifact Title: Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj doesn't feature Van at all.
- Biggus Dickus: One of the art students comments that he's gonna need a bigger pencil to sketch a nude Van.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Van, who merely does the minimum required to remain a student, which is the reason for the conflict with Professor McDougal. In a subversion, Van instead devotes his energies to helping the Student Body in any way he can.
- Van's repeated use of "Write that down" after giving someone else advice, Which he actually got from his dad.
- Also, "Don't be a fool, stay in school."
- Chivalrous Pervert: Van flirts mercilessly with Gwen but he never actually makes a pass at her since he knows she has a boyfriend, even though the guy is a complete Jerkass.
- Drench Celebration: After the football team finally wins a game in Van Wilder: Freshman Year, they grab the Gatorade coolers, pass the coach and dump them on the scantily clad cheerleaders.
- Eating the Eye Candy: Gwen is clearly pleased with what she sees when Van is posing for the art class.
- Funny Foreigner: Played with in Freshman Year. Yu Dum Fook initially appears to be a straight example until The Reveal that he's actually Van's father's chief of security, planted at Coolidge to keep an eye on Van, and not actually a Foreigner.
- Fun Personified: Van Wilder. He has the amazing ability to take nearly any situation and make it awesome. Just ask the Jerkass Richard's parents.
- Fun with Acronyms:
- Richard's Greek fraternity, Delta Iota Kappa.Van: Richard you rascal, you never told me you were a DIK! (under his breath) Not that you had to...
- And in the prequel, the Daughters In Christ's Kingdom.
- There's also the Lambda Omega Omegas, the Geek fraternity.
- Richard's Greek fraternity, Delta Iota Kappa.
- Hate Sink: Richard Bagg is an arrogant pre-med student caring only about his own dreams and status as President of student government, seeing that as a license to talk down to and walk all over other students, even physically toying with his pledges. He is also Gwen's condescending boyfriend, who sees her as his "bitch" and when he sees Van and Gwen getting close, gets into a rivalry with Van. When Gwen rejects his marriage proposal, he frames Van for serving alcohol to kids to get him arrested and expelled and later cheats on Gwen. This serves to make the humiliation and revenge pranks he's subjected to a joy to watch.
- Hot for Student: A very gross example of this is Van Wilder and one of his teachers who is well over her fifties. The things he did to stay in college...
- Laxative Prank: Gwen does this to Richard after finding out he cheated on her - just before his med school exam and interview. Hilarity Ensues.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Gender-flipped, with Van serving as this to Gwen convincing her to take things less seriously. Gwen herself is an inversion, as it's meeting her that convinces Van to finally grow up.
- Meaningful Name: Richard Bagg, and the Delta Iota Kappas. Just think about it for a second. Lampshaded by Van.
- No Fourth Wall:
- Van Wilder narrates his story and even turns to stare at the camera during certain humorous instances. Not unlike another character Ryan Reynolds would go on to represent on the silver screen...
- Jonathan Bennett gets in on the act at the end of Freshman Year whilst playing the younger Van.Kaitlin: But what about the party?Van Wilder: Trust me. [looks into the camera] There'll be more.
- Personal Arcade: In The Rise of Taj, Taj adorns the Cock and Bulls living room with several creature comforts, including a widescreen TV and a "Miss Nude America" pinball machine.
- Present-Day Past: Van has an iPhone in Freshman Year... The prequel to the 2002 film. Further compounded by the fact that Van's been at Coolidge 7 years, thus making Van's freshman year... 1995.
- Speed Sex: Richard lasts 15 seconds with Gwen and just 10 with Jeannie. Gwen later publicizes this in her article supporting Van.
- Stern Teacher: Professor McDougal seems like just a Jerkass until later on it's found out he's really a Reasonable Authority Figure who just wants Van Wilder to stop wasting his potential.
- Television Geography: The climax is funny for people familiar with the campus of UCLA; Van Wilder's sprint from his dorm (actually Royce Hall, which contains lecture halls, classrooms, and a theater) to his final exam (which happens to be located in the building next door) seems to have him teleporting all over campus and often running in the opposite direction of where he ends up.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The title character is very loosely based on comedian Bert Kreischer, whose life story was optioned by Oliver Stone when Rolling Stone published an article about his life as a sixth-year undergraduate party animal at Florida State University. After the rights expired, the screenwriters turned their unused script into Van Wilder.