Van Wilder the character is a charmer. Van Wilder the movie is not. I’ll allow that a movie brought to you by National Lampoon should be counted on to have a certain amount of, say, indelicacy, but the “jokes” in Van Wilder make John Belushi’s human zit look charming. I’m not even going to grant the worst offender the coy critic’s wait-’til-you-see-this bit, so read no further if you like your disgust in the form of a surprise: The price of admission will bring you eclairs filled with dog semen, hot and oozing and running down the mouths of a bunch of frat boys making yummy noises. You get to see the production process, too. Mercifully, this comes—God, no pun intended—near the end, the previous gags aren’t quite so gaggy, and there are even bits of sweetness and real humor to keep things watchable. As for the plot lines, they’re tried and tired: Following a seven-year plan to earn his undergraduate degree at Coolidge College, Van (Ryan Reynolds) no longer bothers with classes but is so damn popular that he employs an assistant, Taj (Kal Penn), to ensure that he remains the big man on campus. Wealthy check-writing father cuts off funds, ingenuity saves the day, and a straight-laced reporter, Gwen (a fittingly dull Tara Reid), chases the story behind the school’s smooth-talking screwup and gets a little too close. Penn has the funniest role, as the alternately horny and deferential foreign-exchange student (breaking out during his interview into a fervid speech about needing to learn a certain sexual skill while still in America, then concluding with a meek “I want to be assistant very much, thank you”), but much of Van Wilder—movie and man—is actually more romantic than randy. Which is odd, given Gwen’s utter lack of personality. Somebody, though, had good instincts giving Reynolds a lead role in which he can stretch his devil-with-a-baby-face comedic wings. (Does anybody else miss Two Guys and a Girl?) But his charisma needed a more worthy leading lady to turn Van Wilder into the love story it tries to be—and fewer churn-your-stomach jokes to help him make it the high-low comedy it’s expected to be. —Tricia Olszewski