Judge Joel Pearce says Kal Penn should go back to White Castle.
Ruder, cruder, and even wilder than its predecessor!
I suppose you can only expect so much from a movie that ditches its titular character and features two near-nude women on the cover who don't even appear in the film. Still, Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj is almost indescribably bad. The only impressive thing about it is that it managed to get a theatrical run. Not only is it painful to watch, it also insults our intelligence.
Facts of the Case
Plotwise, think of Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj as Dead Poets Society, only with a cast comprised of Hooters waitresses and extras from MTV Spring Break. Taj Badalandabad (Kal Penn, the only actor from the first film stupid enough to stick around) arrives at "Camford" University (get it?) as a graduate student and teaching assistant. After being tossed out of the Fox and Hounds, a fraternity house full of snobby British aristocrats, he is put in charge of his own house and decides to create a competing fraternity, labeled the Cock and Bulls (get it?). Thus Taj is pitted against Pipp Everett, the Earl of Grey (get it?). Taj's brand spankin' new fraternity is made up of the following misfits:
• Seamas O'Toole (Glen Barry, The Draft), a
stereotypically angry Irishman
Will the Cock and Bulls manage to beat out the snobby Brits? Of course they will—which means you don't have to watch the movie.
At its core, Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj is a film of denial. It promises all sorts of pleasure, only to carefully and systematically deny each one. The main problem is the total lack of raunchiness. The film opens with a comedic near-sex scene that promises plenty of college boobies, wild frat-house adventures, and sexual exploits. But we don't see any boobies until the one-hour mark, at which point we get a carefully calculated booby flash every half hour. Every sexual situation is interrupted before anything fun or exciting happens. In fact, Taj's dog is the only character in the film that gets any nookie at all, and I hope that's not what you've come to see. If nothing else, R-rated college movies have always promised a healthy dose of T & A. Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj is more like an on-line teen chat room: Everyone talks about sex constantly, but nobody's actually getting any. I can't begin to guess what was added to make this the unrated version.
After castrating the production, director Mort Nathan (Boat Trip) starts to turn Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj into an educational, feel-good film. A large section of the first half of the movie is given over to a bus tour of London, as Taj gives his students quasi-humorous historical tidbits. Then, he starts encouraging them to be themselves and to fight the stereotypes that trap them. Nathan then spends the rest of the film forcing his characters to do ridiculous things like reenacting the battle of Agincourt with paintball guns. By the time Taj's painfully stereotypical family arrives to catch him almost humping British hottie Charlotte (Lauren Cohan, Float), the film has lost any sense of purpose. This stereotypical nonsense extends to all of the performances, giving us no place to care about any of these characters or the ridiculous contest that we know they will win. In fact, they win every single part of the contest that we see (with one notable exception), so there's virtually no tension at any point of the film.
There are other problems as well. Only one joke doesn't fall flat, and it arrives so close to the end that it's little consolation. The pacing shows complete and utter ineptness. The actors rush through the jokes, clearly not expecting any laughter, then dull conversations go on for an eternity. Of course, Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj steals liberally from other films, and sometimes makes the mistake of actually discussing the film of the movie that's being ripped off. Allusion simply doesn't work unless it feels like an inside joke. Then, to cap it all off, we are subjected to one of the worst fencing scenes I have ever watched in my life. It's filmed poorly, creates no excitement whatsoever, and rips off the much better fight from Die Another Day. Unless you are in the immediate family of the main cast members, I can think of no reason you should watch this movie, or even pick it up from the video store shelf.
The DVD has been produced as well as can be expected. The video transfer is clean and clear, with well balanced colors. The sound track is fine too, though there were times I actually wished I couldn't hear the lines so clearly. There are some special features, too. We get a pair of music videos, and some really boring deleted scenes (I can't tell you how happy I am that these weren't added to the extended cut). We also get a gag reel, which actually isn't, because it's mostly just Penn shooting his mouth off. The production featurette is only notable because Mort Nathan is willing to describe it as a "Cinderella story" with a straight face. Finally, we get a quick tour of the Romanian set.
I might have been a bit more forgiving of Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj if it had been slipped quietly to home video like most of these types of sequels. It wasn't though. This complete and total disaster was actually given a theatrical release, which is insulting somehow. Kal Penn is a likable, amiable guy, and he deserves better than this. We deserve better than this too, which is why I'm recommending you stay as far away as possible.
Send Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj to a holding cell while I figure out a suitable punishment. It might take a while.
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