National Lampoon’s Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj Review
By Shawn McKenzie 12/07/2006
Van Wilder’s personal assistant, Taj Mahal Badalandabad (Kal Penn), has graduated from Coolidge College and he has crossed the pond to attend Camden University in England. He wants to join the Fox and Hounds fraternal guild…the fraternity that his father (Kulvinder Ghir) attended, where he was dubbed the “Sultan of Sheets.” When Taj arrives with his bulldog Ballzac, he is informed by the frat’s leader…Pip Everett, the Earl of Grey (Daniel Percival)…that there has been a “typographical error” and that he won’t be able to join. Taj has been assigned to be a history teacher and a resident assistant for a group of students who got similar “typographical error” rejections who live in a house called “The Barn.” Seamus (Glen Garry) is an English-hating Irishman who is always up for a fight. Gethin (Anthony Cozens) is a math and quantum physics major who is the definition of “nerd.” Sadie (Holly Davidson) is Cockney lass with big boobs (which she displays with copious amounts of cleavage) and a filthy mouth (though it is hard to understand under her thick accent.) Finally, Simon (Steven Rathman) is a guy who never talks and plays a lot of video games (he also hides a shameful secret about a certain physical trait.) None of the house residents has any self-esteem, so Taj takes upon himself to help them out. When he hears about an annual fraternal competition to win something called the Hastings Cup, he renames his organization “Cock ‘N Balls” and goes after the Fox and Hounds. Meanwhile, Taj finds himself attracted to his teaching supervisor, Charlotte “Charlie” Higginson (Lauren Cohan), who happens to be Pip’s girlfriend. The residents slowly begin to gain some confidence during the competition. Gethin finds himself attracted to Penelope (Beth Steel), while her twin sister Alexandra (Amy Steel) is having an affair with Pip. Sadie finds a boyfriend who likes her for more than just her boobs, Seamus finds a way to channel his rage, and Simon finds his voice. If Taj and his buds can win the competition, they may end up being campus legends.
When I reviewed the original Van Wilder back in 2002, I considered it an average comedy that wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t the best thing out there either (in fact, I considered the cross-dressing college comedy Sorority Boys a better movie.) In the years that have followed, the movie has grown on me. Its sequel, The Rise of Taj, brings me back to the same place that I thought about the original movie…that it’s just an average comedy.
The thing that was great about the original was the actor who played the title character…Ryan Reynolds. He has made me laugh ever since he was a cast member of ABC’s “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place.” He went onto make two very funny movies released last year…Just Friends and Waiting. For some odd reason, he chose not to make a cameo in the Wilder sequel (he is briefly shown in a picture that Taj carries around.)
Penn was funny in the original, but Taj always felt like a secondary character. The actor’s only other notable role was in the absolutely hilarious 2004 movie Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. In Rise of Taj, he is obviously channeling some of the wit of his Kumar character while retaining his Taj-like qualities. While he is funny, he doesn’t have a new supporting character to fill the shoes that Penn himself had originally worn in the original movie. Cohan was cute, but not all that funny. Percival played a clichéd bad guy character that I’ve seen in about a zillion R-rated comedies. I liked Davidson’s contributions to the movie…but I could see better stuff in porn movies.
One thing that could have been better would be the college practical jokes. They do a similar practical joke involving a dog here as they did in the original. That one was gross, but at least it was original. Here, it feels like a poor retread.
Do you know who directed National Lampoon’s Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj? Mort Nathan…the director of what I have heard is an incredibly bad movie, 2002’s Boat Trip (I have yet to see it myself.) The movie garnered him a Razzie nomination that year. I’m thinking that he might end up becoming a two-time nominee with this movie. I can appreciate the gratuitous nudity (especially from Davidson), but without the one-two punch of Reynolds and Penn, this has become what I stated in the beginning of this review…an average comedy. Maybe my mind will change in the next few years…though I highly doubt it.
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