Van Wilder is nowhere to be found and only passingly mentioned in the rancorously unnecessary "National Lampoon's Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj," but the loss of the title character turns out to be the least of this shameful sequel's problems. The 2002 original, titled, of course, "National Lampoon's Van Wilder
," starred the usually charismatic Ryan Reynolds as a seven-year college slacker and big-time player and Tara Reid as the journalism student he falls for. It was a mild sleeper success at the box office, but came off as a mostly uninspired copycat of virtually hundreds of other youth-oriented raunchfests released before it. Even so, it had more going for it than "National Lampoon's Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj," a pale imitation that no one asked for. With an expiration date several years passed, this hopeless cash-in features a barely-there plot, stock stick figures posing as human beings, and diluted, would-be gross-out gags so innocuous the movie might as well have shot for a PG-13 rating. With the stench of resigned mediocrity coursing through its every miserable minute, the picture quickly becomes patently offensive for all the wrong reasons.
With Van Wilder missing in action, the reigns are woefully handed over to Taj Mahal Badalandabad (Kal Penn), a supporting character in the predecessor who didn't need his own movie. Having learned the tricks of the sexual trade from buddy Van, Taj travels to prestigious, London-based Camford University and sets out to teach confidence to the members of a misfit co-ed frat house. In doing so, Taj and his students, including nerdy whiz Gethin (Anthony Cozens), silent Percy (Tom Davey), and blunt-mouthed Sadie (Holly Davidson), decide to compete in the college's Hastings Cup Tournament against the rich, snooty "Fox and Hounds" fraternity. As the competition grows fierce, Taj finds himself falling in love with the beautiful Charlotte (Lauren Cohan), who happens to be the girlfriend of their nastiest opponent, Pipp Everett (Daniel Percival).
Flavorlessly directed by Mort Nathan (2003's "Boat Trip
") and seemingly penned on a napkin by David Drew Gallagher, "National Lampoon's Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj" has direct-to-DVD written all over it. There is unequivocally no reason why such an asinine, energy-deprived waste of time has reached theaters. I have had knee-shaking, ass-skewering hemorrhoids that were funnier than this so-called comedy, which doesn't inspire a single laugh, smirk or smile in all of its running time. The jokes are derivative boresa canine dosed with Viagara-like pills showers the audience with his semen; Taj's parents walk in on their son in a compromising position with a girl in a direct steal from 2001's "American Pie 2
;" a mile-high club attempt ends badly when hot sauce is poured on Taj's privates. The nudity is squandered, with literally two out of the four breasts on display being glaring body doubles. The ensemble of supporting characters are drab, unappealing clichés. The storyline is singularly uninteresting and will bring out yawns in the most well-rested of viewers. As for the sole potentially nice momenta kind of sweet heart-to-heart between Taj and Charlottethe scene is ruined by being tagged with Taj getting paint-balled in the crotch.
Reprising the role that shot him to mid-level fame, the mere appearance of Kal Penn (2004's "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
"), as Taj, is embarrassing. One would be inclined to feel sorry for him if it wasn't for the executive-producer credit he receives in the opening credits. Penn has showed so much promise as an actor in the past that it's a shame he had to stoop so low. As love interest Charlotte and sex-minded Sadie, the likable if bland Lauren Cohan (2005's "Casanova") and the promising Holly Davidson put on game faces as they dream of more dignified roles. The rest of the performers are either nondescript (read: the protagonists) or broadly oafish (read: the antagonists).
"This has become rather tiresome," the sniveling Pipp tells Taj during their climactic fencing showdown. Pipp might be an ignorant cad, but he's not dumb. "National Lampoon's Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj" is tedious cinematic rubbish that holds its target demographic in contempt, believing high school and college kids will bust a gut over lowest-common-denominator jokes told by filmmakers who do not have even a cursory knowledge of comedic timing and payoffs. If not for an admittedly bouncy soundtrack of some catchy rock and pop songs helping to cushion the blow, the film wouldn't have a saving grace to save its life. Don't let the subtitle fool you"National Lampoon's Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj" depicts nothing if not the abrupt end of a distaff franchise that never should have been sequelized in the first place.