National Lampoon's Van Wilder Blu-ray Review
PictureA bad film Van Wilder may be, but the disc itself can still get a good rating if the picture and sound are up to scratch. Sadly, it is bad news with the transfer.
Earlier this week, I slated The Wedding Date for it's appalling transfer and saying it represented a new low in hi def transfers. Whilst Van Wilder never reaches the depth of that film, it certainly doesn't raise the bar far above it.
The film is presented in a 1080P MPEG 4 transfer, and it doesn't display the grain levels of some of the worst transfers I have seen. On this level, at least, the transfer impresses. Unfortunately, the rest of the results presented here are pretty dire.
Colour is very poor, looking unrealistic and over- saturated. Flesh tones also look washed out and lack the detail that we have come to expect in decent HD transfers. It also displays a bizarrely flat image. We are used to seeing an almost three dimensional field in our HD discs, seeing detail pop off the screen and background details being clear and well defined. None of this is present in this transfer, which just looks flat and dull. There is one scene where the two main characters are talking by an ice hockey pitch, and the whole image looks unnatural and weirdly compressed.
I mentioned the lack of detail and this is present in many of the shots. It is particularly evident in the interiors, however - with the class rooms and Van Wilder's apartment lacking any kind of details that we would normally associate with an HD transfer. I haven't seen the standard DVD but I cannot believe that this is much of an improvement.
SoundVan Wilder is, I believe, the first disc to contain an uncompressed PCM 7.1 soundtrack. Whilst I lack the ability, as yet, to decode this track, it has certainly been getting good reviews. If the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 sound track is anything to go by, then your ears are in for a treat with the PCM version. The soundtrack is what rescues this so far uninspiring disc.
Firstly, this is a track that really utilises the full width and depth of the sound field. All the speakers get a good work-out here, with an extremely well designed and presented mix.
The front of the sound field is utilised well with crystal clear dialogue nailed to the front, and nice ambient sound effects to the right and left. Placement is precise, with sound effects sounding natural and proportioned well with where the viewer is sitting.
Surprisingly, the sub gets a good work out here as well and when it is required it does a good job. The rumble of vehicles, and various farts and other bodily functions shake the room (unfortunately).
The rears also get a really good use, being very rarely silent. They provide excellent ambient support, with small conversations and various other effects during parties.
It is a mystery why one of the best soundtracks yet seen has been reserved for this disc, especially when the video is so poor. But we can only rate what we hear, and this is excellent.
ExtrasThis disc contains all the extras that were present on the US 2 disc DVD release, apart from some inconsequential extras such as an art gallery, and some production notes. This means that there is an extensive list of extra features - even if some of them are a little bizarre.
- Drunken Idiot Kommentary - this is literally a recording of a group of people watching the film whilst getting progressively out of their skulls on alcohol. Bizarre, and completely unfunny. It's like being at a party with a group of people you don't get on with, and still feeling left out.
- Party Legends, Pledges, and Bullies - This is a selection of talking heads describing how great the film is, with some clips from the film and some behind the scenes footage. This is mainly a self congratulatory puff piece - but there is the occasional small insight.
- Ultimate College Party Guide - One of the film's minor characters explains how Van Wilder organises his parties. Inconsequential.
By now, the extra features were beginning to prove as light as the main feature, providing little to no insight whatsoever. But things were about to get worse.....
- Gwen-ezumas revenge is a feature on farting and pooping including facts about these bodily functions and how to recreate them in sound effects.
- Testicles of the Animal Kingdom is a quiz. About Testicles.
- Write That Down is a text based segment containing various quotes from our eponymous hero.
The extras continue to come thick and fast, with various small documentaries and featurettes about the movie. There is also a Comedy Central Reel Comedy special, and a few other TV Specials. There is also an exclusive Blu Ray feature Blu-Book Exam which is an interactive game based on the film involving film trivia, and the Blu Line a pop up film timeline which allows you to skip around the film, and set bookmarks.
VerdictFans of gross-out humour may find much to admire in National Lampoon's Van Wilder. I am afraid I found little. It seems to be a modern attempt to revisit one of the franchises biggest hits Animal House (1978). Unfortunately, a combination of humour that brings new meaning to the word juvenile, and a complete lack of any likeable characters, means that this film is just a meaningless parade of bodily function gags.
The film is served by a terrible transfer, an absolutely superb sound mix, and a very comprehensive (if uninformative) extras package. Fans of the film with the right sound set up will want to invest in this set, but if you cannot decode the PCM mix, then the terrible transfer means that you may well be better off up scaling the SD version.
The rest of you should just avoid.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £29.99
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