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Seeing both Sorority Boys and Van Wilder may make you stupid

One plays a slacker whose plan to stay in college as long as possible is thwarted when his daddy stops sending him money. The other is a slacker whose plan to stay in his fraternity until graduation is thrown for a loop when he is wrongfully kicked out on embezzlement charges.

They are Ryan Reynolds and Barry Watson (7th Heaven), two actors who play the lead characters in two of the worst films of 2002. But the similarities between two college comedies opening this month, Van Wilder and Sorority Boys, don?t just end there.

Both plots involve feuds with jackass fraternity presidents, romantic desires for feminist-minded blondes and schemes to come up with enough money to continue being slackers.

These wretched films are not so painful to watch because they had potential to begin with ? because they didn?t ? rather because more and more of these thinly-plotted, one-joke wannabe gross-out comedies are being made.

American Pie was funny ? once. The sequel wasn?t. And neither was new star Jason Biggs? other foray into college comedy, Loser.

Look at how long the recent Slackers stayed in the theaters. While Road Trip may be the exception, it?s not like it served as anything more than passable entertainment.

Which brings us back to what these current Animal House-wannabes are trying to do.

Is Sorority Boys trying to make some kind of original social statement about what men feel like as women? If that?s the case, apparently the filmmakers never saw Tootsie. Or the 1992 Jonathan Silverman movie, Little Sister, in which a frat boy dressed as a woman and joined a sorority.

The problem with Sorority Boys passing itself off as an original comedy is that it is neither new nor funny.

The dildo-inspired gags that make up most of the supposed humor are just the tip of the iceberg, which is determined to sink the mentality of studio executives who are marketing these films to college students. There is a scene in Boys where two of the drag-queen protagonists battle each other with dildos serving as swords, but not before they throw tampons at each other.

Is this supposed to be funny ? or sad?

Van Wilder doesn?t have a point either, but at least the movie isn?t presenting itself as anything other than an Animal House-knockoff. National Lampoon, which is behind both A.H. and Wilder, has lost something in its step as it moves into the comic thrust of the new millennium. Maybe farting strippers and unwilling sex with ugly guidance counselors was funny once ? maybe it wasn?t ? but the bottom line is, it doesn?t fit here.

And neither does the horny-neanderthal-turns-into-post-modern-feminist subplot. Especially when Tara Reid?s brainy journalist character is dating a self-absorbed fraternity president to begin with, and then later loses all inhibitions by dating Van.

Besides, that whole Animal House turned into modern political correctness concept was already done, with mild success, in the 1994 comedy PCU.

Yes, these movies are supposed to be dumb. But they shouldn?t make viewers walk out feeling dumber. These movies are made so popcorn can be consumed, not so brain cells can be lost.

These scripts suffer from some of the most cliched lines in the history of film. In both films, the main character spews, ?I don?t want to keep dating bimbos, I want a girl I can have a conversation with.? (Then stop hanging out in fraternities and pimped-out dorm rooms.) The fact that these movies simply aren?t realistic isn?t as much of a problem as they don?t understand that their joke is old. And it looks like they never will.

Hollywood is criticized time and time again for making crap. (Disney is the studio behind Sorority Boys for Pete?s sake.) And yet, independent films like Memento and Gosford Park can?t get picked up by distributors for a measly $5 million.

But these movies keep getting made, and unfortunately seen.

The only redeeming value is that Reynolds and Watson are surprisingly decent in their one-dimensional roles. Both young actors possess an engaging screen presence as well as strong comic timing tendencies, although more so for Reynolds. Hopefully, their talents can be used in worthwhile films their next go-around.

In the mean time, try to avoid seeing these ill-conceived pieces of garbage in the next couple of weeks.

That is, if you want to have all your mental faculties with you when you leave the theater.Van Wilder: D(opens Friday, March 29)Sorority Boys: F(opens today)

  • Contact William Albritton at