Apparently the folks at National Lampoon decided that the world needed yet another wild sex romp set in the halls of academia, and therefore brought us Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj. No, Ryan Reynolds’ Van Wilder never makes an appearance (I suppose the same man who wore a fat suit in Just Friends (2005) decided he was too classy for this), but he is mentioned every so often in order to justify putting the character’s name in the title.
Instead, we follow Taj Mahal Badalandabad (Kal Penn), a supporting character in the first film, on his way to graduate school at the fictional Camford University. Taj is teamed with the school’s outcast students, and the story goes on to follow that of a long line of films pitting the nerdy outsiders against the school’s aristocracy. This premise has already been driven into the ground, from Animal House (1978) to Revenge of the Nerds (1984) to this year’s Accepted and about a million other times. (I’m convinced that National Lampoon has some kind of computer that just randomizes the whole concept and then prints out scripts every couple of years.) The only thing that sets The Rise of Taj apart is the fact that it’s set in England. When that’s your movie’s big draw, you’re in trouble.
Everything good and bad about the film can be seen in the performance by Kal Penn, who showed in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) that he can be affable onscreen, and who more or less shows the same affability in this movie. It’s also nice to see him doing more than just bit roles, like he has otherwise had this year in movies such as Superman Returns and Deck the Halls. However, this makes the fact that Penn’s talent is squandered here — almost every joke consists of lame double entendres and innuendos (just look at the title for a good example) — all the more obvious and unfortunate.
The movie is never funny, as almost every single thing about the The Rise of Taj is so trite and cliched that it never had a chance to work. Even the film’s one gross-out gag isn’t original enough to be all that disgusting. It’s not that the movie is just bad; it was never given the opportunity to be good in the first place. You can tell a movie is awful when it makes you look forward to the Harold and Kumar sequel that’s been announced for 2008.Rated R for pervasive crude sexual content, some nudity and language.
— reviewed by Justin Souther