Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj review by Mike Long

It's no big secret: When a movie is successful, the company behind it usually tries to make a sequel. But, that's often easier said than done. Due to scheduling conflicts, contract disputes, or more than likely, the desire to avoid a retread, the star of a movie isn't always available for the sequel. This typically doesn't phase the powers that be, who will chug on, undaunted, to make that sequel anyway. So, joining the likes of Mannequin: On the Move, Teen Wolf Too, and the infamous Grease 2, comes Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, which sports one supporting character and one dog from the first film and no one else.

In Van Wilder, we met Taj Mahal Badlandabad (Kal Penn) an India-born student attending an American university who simply wanted to fit in and have lots of sex. With Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, Taj has apparently graduated from college, as he's come to England's Camford University to get his Master's Degree. Taj is thrilled to be at Camford and he's prepared to join the prestigious fraternity, Fox and Hounds. However, he's informed by the group's leader, Pipp (Daniel Percival), that there's been a mistake and that Taj is to be the resident assistant at "The Barn". Upon arriving at the aforementioned building (which is in shambles), Taj finds a group of students in need of help; Seamus (Glen Barry), an angry Irishman; Gethin (Anthony Cozens), a nerdy mathematician; Simon (Steven Rathman), who never speaks; and Sadie (Holly Davidson), a Cockney girl with a potty mouth. Taj decides that he can mold these rejects into successful students. When his first attempt at this goes awry, Taj dubs the group "Cock and Bulls" and enters them into the competition for the school's prestigious "Hastings Cup". At the same time, Taj finds himself falling for Pipp's girlfriend, Charlotte (Lauren Cohan). While Taj is busy trying to boost the self-esteem of his charges, Pipp is looking for ways to get Taj expelled.

Only if I were lying on an operating table awaiting one of his kidneys for a transplant would I have been more anxious for an appearance by Ryan Reynolds, the star of the first film. Heck, I would have even taken a cameo by Tara Reid. (But I wouldn't take one of her organs...) Kal Penn simply isn't able to carry this movie. Yes, he's been very good in supporting roles in the past, but Kumar really needed his Harold in this one. Penn vacillates between playing Taj as the high-strung people-pleaser which he was in Van Wilder and someone trying to do a Ryan Reynolds impression. The result is a performance which is uneven at best.

Of course, Penn is probably the last person who we should be blaming here, as he probably did the best with the material which he was given. I can only assume that Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj was made to assist those who lapsed into comas in the early 1980s so that if they awoke today they could catch up on every storyline which has appeared in a college movie in one convenient package. The movie's main storyline is lifted directly from Revenge of the Nerds with the displaced housing situation to the misfit characters on to the competition amongst fraternities. This is peppered with bits of Animal House (there's a blatant "homage" in the finale), P.C.U., and of course, Van Wilder. The result is a film which doesn't offer one original thought or idea. We've seen these characters before and we've seen these situations before.

The tired ideas lead to an idea of humor which is nearly non-existent. Now, I didn't expect Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj to be a classic, but I certainly thought I might laugh some. By the end of the movie, I had only laughed once, and that was at an oddly placed political joke. The sight-gags, double-entendres, and gross-outs all fall flat. I'm not sure if it's because we've seen this all before, but Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj is one of the most non-humorous comedies that I've seen in years.

Van Wilder was by no means a great film, but Ryan Reynolds channeling Chevy Chase gave the film an odd energy and it does contain some funny moments, even if it is simply trying to drag Animal House into the new millennium. In contrast, Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj is a complete mess which can't even muster pity laughs. This is a sequel which no one was asking for which I'm advising everyone to avoid.

Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj graduates onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in both rated and unrated forms. For the purposes of this review, only the unrated version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fairly good, as the picture is sharp and clear. There is very little grain to be had here and the image is free from defects from the source material. The colors look very good, and the image has a nice depth to it. The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track offers clear dialogue and sound effects. The track delivers some very nice stereo effects, and party and crowd scenes provide an interesting array of surround sound effects. Subwoofer effects are limited though.

The Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj DVD contains a few assorted extras. "Union Jack-offs: The Making of The Rise of Taj" (9 minutes) is an odd segment where the writer and director introduce the idea of the film and the cast comments on five key scenes from the movie. "On Set in Romania: Kal Penn Tours 'The Barn'" (5 minutes) is exactly what it sounds like, as the star takes us around the set. The DVD contains 7 DELETED SCENES which run about 7 minutes. These are all incidental moments (ie: it's clear why they were cut) which fill in some moments which are implied in the movie. The extras are rounded out by a GAG REEL (3 minutes) and two MUSIC VIDEOS, one for "Get Steady" by Jonny Lives and the other for "Heads Will Roll" by Marion Raven.

2 out of 10 Jackasses

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