National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj movie poster
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National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj movie poster

National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj Movie Review

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Kal Penn returns to his Award-winning character Taj Mahal Badalandabad in Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, where his character has progressed from the nerdy Indian virgin to an Indian version of his mentor, Van Wilder. Ryan Reynolds, not surprisingly, does not return for this unwanted sequel.

As far as I know, no one really asked for a sequel to the National Lampoon hit. Van Wilder 1 was not all that great to begin with, but while inconsistent, it was still relatively funny. Van Wilder 2, like most sequels, is just a blatant attempt to make money, as the movie is a retread of dozens of better movies before it. The plot is simple: a newbie (Penn) moves to an uptight British university, is rejected from a prestigious fraternity full of cocky, asshole Brits, joins a group of losers in a piece-of-trash fraternity, pits them against their enemies in a school competition (didn't see that one coming!) and, of course, attempts to steal away his enemy's beautiful, nice and innocent girlfriend.

While the movie is not meant to be read into too much, I can't say it makes a whole lot of sense from the beginning. Taj joins a fraternity, but he is a graduate student who also happens to be his frat house companions' teacher. Conflict of interest, anyone? In addition, his supervisor is also the girl he loves, who is also, presumably, a graduate student and in a sorority of her own (one assumes). Wouldn't his advisor be a professor? While this really isn't a big deal in the scheme of things, it seems like the writers just shoved a bunch of characters together and tried to interweave them any way they could.

Van Wilder 2 really offers nothing new, and its jokes are hit-or-miss. Nevertheless, it is not nearly as bad as I was expecting, and still offers up a fair amount of moderate laughs throughout its short running time. The movie stays surprisingly clear of toilet humor, except for one specific scene which is actually quite funny (but not nearly as gross as the dog scene from the previous movie). While it looks like Penn just showed up to collect a paycheck (he sounds like he is about to laugh at his own bad, inconsistent accent most of the time), the supporting cast is quite humorous. Anthony Cozens, I hate to say it, is not the most attractive of fellows, but he is the best of the group. Lauren Cohan also makes for a good romantic interest.

Fans of the genre should get some kicks out of Van Wilder 2, but it still lacks any originality and also fails to match other movies of a similar nature. The movie really falls flat in the last 20 minutes, mainly due to the fact that it takes the course that so many other movies have done before it, and then goes beyond absurd. The underdog frat house is framed for cheating and of course expelled, and they then have to go through tests and hearings to clear themselves. Boring! Then, the final match of the competition starts out as a fencing match and turns into an all-out sword fight. What movie was I watching again? You'd think in a movie like this the writers could go so many different ways for laughs, and instead they settle upon something as stupid and trite as this.

Van Wilder 2 has its moments and is by no means the worst movie I have ever seen, but it is so un-ambitious it is hard not to notice. The movie really struggles in the last twenty minutes, which ultimately makes it feel like a long-running "SNL" skit - and you know what those are like.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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