Van Wilder is an outgoing, friendly, and extremely popular student who has been at Coolidge College for seven years. For the past three years he has made no effort to graduate, instead spending his time organizing parties and fundraisers, doing charity work, helping other students, and posing for figure drawing classes. But after seven years, with no return on his investment, Van's father decides it is time to cut his losses and stops paying Van's tuition. Instead of leaving, however, Van decides to find some other way to pay his way through the rest of college.
Meanwhile Gwen Pearson, a star reporter for the student newspaper, is asked to do an article on Van. It proves to be so popular that she is asked to write a follow-up article for the front page of the graduation issue. Although that would be a big win, she is rather put off when Van interprets her attempts to schedule interviews as romantic advances — especially because she already has a boyfriend. Gwen's boyfriend, Richard Bagg, happens to be the president of the student union, and the leader of a fraternity. He takes personal offense at Wilder's attempts to steal his girlfriend, and becomes very stressed out at having to deal with this burden on top of preparing for medical school and leading the Delta Iota Kappa (DIK) fraternity. Subsquently, a rivalry develops between the two men.
The rivalry grows as they perform increasingly disgusting pranks on each other. For instance, one scene involves Richard inviting Van over to a dinner with him and Gwen's family to prove a point about Van's lackadaisical attitude towards life (in which Gwen's parents are only pleased by Van's easy-going attitude, and Gwen, increasingly turned off by Richard's stress, only feels that Richard's actions were too under-handed.) In one infamous scene, Van and his friends replace the cream inside some pastries with dog semen and send them to Richard's fraternity, where the frat brothers begin eating and don't realize what it really is until it's too late.
At one point, Richard also sleeps with another woman from a sister sorority, which would be the final straw for Gwen later on. Richard also sets up Van at one of his own parties in which there are some (very) underage drinkers and reports it to the police, which leads to Van being almost expulsed. However, Van proposes an alternative punishment: that the school force him to complete a semester's worth of work in the six days remaining, and then graduate. The committee agrees to this by a three-to-two decision.
Gwen is pleased that Van is taking the initiative to get his life together; also, to get back at Richard's liaison earlier, on the day of an interview with Northwestern Medical School, immediately after a grueling exam, she laces the protein shake he enjoyed that morning with a laxative. Since there are no bathroom breaks allowed during the test, Richard has to hurry through the 2-hour exam in 20 minutes, "dialing down the middle" towards the end and disgusting the other test-takers with flatulence. Afterwards, before he can reach the bathroom, he unexpectedly runs into the medical school interview committee, and ends up defecating into a trash can right in front of them. He is briefly seen again in the film, reading Gwen's article in the school paper in the bathroom (presumably, his medical school dreams are ruined, as he mentions to Van in a deleted scene). Meanwhile, Van Wilder does well on his finals and celebrates his graduation with Gwen.
A side story of the film depicts the saga of Taj, an Indian foreign exchange student who is accepted (out of many "talented" applicants) to be Van's personal assistant. The main reason for his application for this position, Taj explains, is he wants to have sex with an American girl before he goes home. He meets a girl named Naomi, and Van pushes Taj to go for her ("Naomi- that's 'I moan' backwards," Van explains) but Taj accidentally sets himself on fire with massage oil. At the end of a movie, Taj meets another Indian girl, and it seems like they are going to hit it off.
Ryan Reynolds as Vance "Van" Wilder Jr.
Tara Reid as Gwendolyn "Gwen" Elizabeth Pearson
Kal Penn as Taj Mahal Badalandabad
Paul Gleason as Professor McDougal
Tim Matheson as Vance Wilder Sr.
Daniel Cosgrove as Richard "Dick" Bagg
Teck Holmes as Hutch
Emily Rutherfurd as Jeannie
Tom Everett Scott as Elliot Grebb (uncredited)
Deon Richmond as "Mini Cochran"
Alex Burns as Gordon Cast
Van Wilder was released by Artisan Entertainment on VHS and DVD on August 20, 2002. The DVD was presented in rated and unrated editions, both editions containing a cropped full-frame transfer, and a widescreen version in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The two-disc set also contained interactive topless menus featuring model Ivana Bozilovic, who is "Naomi" in the film. With each new menu, she would take her shirt off and put another shirt on with different options on it. Bonuses included deleted scenes, outtakes, three Burly Bear TV specials, a Comedy Central: Reel Comedy TV special, "Bouncing Off the Walls" music video performed by Sugarcult, trailers and other promotional material like television ads and poster art.
On November 28, 2006, in a way of promoting the sequel to Van Wilder, National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj, Lions Gate Home Entertainment released a 2-disc special edition DVD with new bonus features including a "Drunken Idiot Kommentary" (featuring three young men who are not actually involved in the film), behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew. The re-release did not include the topless menus from the previous set.
Featured in the film are songs by The Living End, Jimmy Eat World, Sum 41, Abandoned Pools, Sugarcult, N.E.R.D., American Hi-Fi, Zero 7's Sia Furler, and Swirl 360. Some artists with songs left off of the the soundtrack included Atomic Kitten, Sprung Monkey, Bird 3, Spymob, and Tahiti 80.
Artemis Records released the official soundtrack, though the tracklisting does not exactly match the lineup heard in the movie. It omits the Sugarbomb song "Hello".
Box office totals
National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj