Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj (2006) / Comedy
aka Van Wilder Deux: The Rise of Taj
MPAA Rated: R for pervasive crude and sexual content, some nudity and language
Running Time: 97 min.
Cast: Kal Penn, Lauren Cohan, Daniel Percival, Glen Barry, Anthony Cozens, Steven Rathman, Holly Davidson
Director: Dadid Drew Gallagher
Screenplay: Brent Goldberg, David Wagner
Review published December 9, 2006
Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj is the sort of movie that one might expect as a straight-to-video studio knock-off meant to capitalize on a popular name for quick, easy cash. Oddly enough, many of those features have the characters travel to a new location (mainly Britain), where they can have more fun offending the stereotypically stuffy Brits with their outrageously uncouth shenanigans. Somehow, this STV-caliber film was launched into theaters, perhaps only to drum up DVD sales later when they release the "Unrated: Too Raunchy for Theaters Edition" to get what few Van Wilder fans there are left to double dip.
It's disingenuous to title this Van Wilder 2, as Van Wilder doesn't even appear as a character in this film, and it doesn't continue anything from the first Van Wilder in terms of story. The only connection between the two films is that one of the supporting characters, Taj Majal Badalandabad (Penn, Superman Returns), is the star of this spin-off, and it features the same "breasts and body fluids"-type frat-house comedy that National Lampoon has been doing almost exclusively for decades now.
In this "sequel", Taj sets out to get higher education in England's Camford University (a phony combination of Cambridge and Oxford), where he intends to join one of their fraternal guilds, the Fox and Hounds, just like his father did when he went to school there. However, the guild leader, Pipp Everett (Percival), informs Taj that he's "mistaken", and he cannot join. After he is told to be a TA and RA for "The Barn", where the campus misfits reside, Taj decides to start his own guild, the Cock and Bulls, where he is going to show his comeuppance of the Fox and Hounds by besting them for the vaunted Hastings Cup, an esteemed educational competition between guilds.
After the first Van Wilder, I braced myself mentally for this sequel, figuring the producers would probably want to outdo its predecessor in how tasteless and depraved they are willing to get in order to secure big laughs from the target audience, who want to see an amoral raunch-fest. Funny thing is, Van Wilder 2 is surprisingly mild by comparison (mostly innocuous sex talk), and outside of a dog show scene where erection pills are put in the dog food, it is also relatively retch-free. Unfortunately, this also means that it is laugh-free as well, as even the Van Wilder fans will come away disappointed that the one thing that made their movie stand out from the rest of the pack, the shameless sex & potty humor, has been excised in favor of subtler, less controversial material. When you tell your buddies about the film the next day, you'll be hard-pressed to be able to come up with much of anything to tell them about that is "oh my god, I almost puked" raunchy.
The script cobbles together some very conventional frat movie clichés, with a competition that comes down between the good guys and bad guys, with everything on the line, including the heart of the hot girlfriend (Cohan) of the main bad guy who has a soft spot for the good. Only Kal Penn's presence might be enough to carry the film somewhat, but given the lack of quality writing or adequate supporting talent, he struggles painfully to be funny, with little in the way of comedic developments, and no one else to riff gags material off of.
You've seen it all before, and seen it done better, in any number of previous comedies, which makes this film excruciatingly boring. Without real raunch, without originality, and, most importantly, without Ryan Reynolds, this is a completely worthless, forgettable sequel that achieves absolutely nothing but wasting 90-plus minutes of your life with nothing to show for it. Take "Van Wilder" out of Van Wilder 2, and what do you have left? Number two.
©2006 Vince Leo