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Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj

National Lampoon movies are expected to be so bad that they're funny, but the never-ending series' latest, The Rise of Taj, is just so bad. In fact, it's one of the year's very worst. Damn Animal House!


National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj shares something in common with another recent, equally unnecessary sequel, Big Momma's House 2: Its title is an absolute misnomer since Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds) is nowhere to be seen in his own sequel--just like Big Momma's house in its sequel. Ah, but the title of the latest National Lampoon installment is still the movie's most intelligible facet. Taj Mahal Badalandabad (Kal Penn) has moved on from being Van's beleaguered, bumbling assistant and is now off to England's prestigious Camford University to continue his education. He arrives on campus thinking he's been accepted to an elite fraternity, only to be derisively turned down by uptight and arrogant Pipp (Daniel Percival). He's relegated to "The Barn," the campus loser dwelling, and vows to turn its misfits into winners so he can not only get back at Pipp but also to steal his girlfriend, Charlotte (Lauren Cohan).


Despite his best efforts to prove otherwise, Kal Penn is a talented actor's actor. He has sold his soul for a few million bucks and to stoner frat-dude fans thanks to the Van Wilder movies and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and its planned 2008 sequel, but he has a true thespian's pedigree. His future is rich with bigger and better roles (especially March's The Namesake, his first dramatic lead). His talent is visible and audible in Taj, but so, at times, is his empty soul, like when you can occasionally hear the nuances in his faux-Indian accent. Penn still remains the only reason to watch the movie, aside from occasional breast flashes (courtesy of a curvaceous Holly Davidson, Sadie Frost's sister), and he should keep the predominantly immature contingency satisfied. The incredibly beautiful Cohan, who had a small part in Casanova, shows some promise, not to mention far too much class for this movie. But sometimes a National Lampoon movie is the best vehicle for a beautiful young actress to break through into the mainstream.


Where to begin on a movie's flaws that are so vast they're like grains of sand on a beach. Mercy is reserved for directors who actually try for something different but wind up failing miserably; then there's Taj's Mort Nathan, who literally tries to be the same (as college comedies of years past)--but winds up failing miserably. Nathan's only other movie, the Cuba Gooding career-ender Boat Trip, will follow him around wherever he may descend, but his latest offering just barely tops that one. The hopefully ashamed writer, freshman David Drew Gallagher, is also in need of a serious hazing after this effort. He steals the playbook from movies like Revenge of the Nerds and Old School, but truly cannot manage a single genuine laugh. The director and writer together, though, are a veritable calamity and the movie's lone joke. Their combined work is uneven unlike ever before--even for a movie that needn't worry about production blunders because of its fan base. Every time there is an almost maudlin moment of tenderness, the duo further hammer the nail in their coffin--that is, until Nathan's next National Lampoon movie (2008's Bag Boy).

Bottom Line rated this film 1 star.