Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj review, Van Wilder 2 DVD review

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Buy your copy from Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj (2006) starhalf starno starno starno star Starring: Kal Pen, Lauren Cohan, Daniel Percival, Glen Barry, Anthony Cozens, Steven Rathman, Holly Davidson
Director: Mort Nathan
Rating: R
Category: Comedy

To call the writing in “Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj” path-of-least-resistance storytelling is an insult to the path of least resistance. Indeed, I would argue that the writer (David Drew Gallagher, hang your head in shame) actually wore blinders while writing his screenplay, so he couldn’t see the myriad of plot threads, gaps in logic and ponderous exposition that stood in the way of his seemingly endless list of ethnic stereotypes and euphemisms for genitalia. Never mind how embarrassing this stuff looks in a post-“Wedding Crashers”/”40-Year-Old Virgin” world: the filmmakers don’t appear to have seen a sex comedy released after 1985, never mind one released in the last 18 months. Thank goodness then that, for as bad as it is, at least it wasn’t boring at the same time.

Kal Penn, who recently appeared in “Superman Returns” (and will star in the upcoming season of “24,” inexplicably reprises his role as Taj, the star pupil of party professor Van Wilder. Taj goes to his father’s alma mater in England (Note: the part of England will be played by Bucharest, Romania) to pursue graduate studies. Upon arriving at the university house where his father stayed, he is told by the snotty alpha male Pip (Daniel Percival) that there’s been a mistake, and he is to be the advisor at the Barn, a run-down house filled with social misfits (surly Irishman, Cockney slut, and so on). Taj, having been one of those misfits once, immediately goes to work on their self-image and enters them in the Hastings Cup, a never-in-a-million-years-would-a-college-allow-this competition that involves badminton, power drinking, and a dog show. Yep, a dog show. Taj’s enthusiasm, of course, is contagious, and his housemates, along with Pip’s girlfriend Charlotte (Lauren Cohan), begin to buy into his philosophy.

So let’s recap: a band of misfits trying to prove themselves against a seemingly unbeatable opponent. One part of the story involves party games, drinking beer as quickly as you can, and boobies. That’s right, you actually saw this movie a few months ago, only then it was called “Beerfest” and it was far, far better than this. And even if you forgive the lazy plot, how can you explain the scene at the party, where the prim and proper Charlotte finally gives in to Taj (oh, come on, you knew it was going to happen, they show it in the trailer) and comes slinking towards him in bed meowing like a cat and mock-primping herself? She just kissed him for the first time minutes beforehand, and now she’s a full-blown sex kitten, in the most literal way imaginable. Puh, leeze.

And that’s not even the best/worst part of the scene. His parents show up for a surprise visit and walk in on Taj and Charlotte. He hides her in the closet and then has a conversation with his family as if they did not see the naked girl that was just at the foot of his bed. How did they not see her? She was right in front of them! The scene is either a failure in editing or a failure in logic. One way or another, it’s a failure. Heck, the movie even fails as a sex comedy. One boob shot? Pffffffth. Prudes.

The movie also fails to pick up plot threads (one character meets someone who is a perfect match for him, but they never follow up on whether he wins her heart; Pip cheats on Charlotte, but nothing is made of it), it conveniently fills the school faculty with rulers who make judgments on students’ academic eligibility without asking for proof or corroboration of the crimes of which they are committed, that kind of stuff. Lazy, lazy, lazy moviemaking across the board. And don’t even get me started on the dog show scene, or the fact that the British villain’s name is freaking Pip. Didn’t “South Park” play that card ten years ago? Jesus.

Still, I must admit that I did not walk out of “Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj” angry about the 100 minutes of life that I lost. Sure, it was really, really bad (hey, what do you expect from the director of “Boat Trip”?), but it kept me reasonably engaged in spite of its incompetence. But then again, when you walk into a movie knowing that you can only trip over your expectations, it’s easy to find the good in it, however miniscule that good may be. 

~David Medsker

DVD Review:
The people at MGM must think we don’t care about the quality of our special features, because the ones that appear on the single-disc release of “Van Wilder 2” are so bad that they might as well have not even bothered. The short making-of featurette, “Union Jack-Offs,” doesn’t really explain anything about the actual filming process at all, while the 4-minute on-set tour makes it obviously clear just how “on the cheap” this movie was made. A couple minutes of deleted scenes and bloopers are also included, as are the “Oh shit, we need filler material” music videos that appear.

~Jason Zingale

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