Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj defines pedestrian filmmaking on every conceivable level, yet this embracement of mediocrity lends a surprising amount of legitimacy to its juvenile subject matter. Rekindling the collegiate virtues of the 2002 original—among them, booze, partying, and the eternal quest for the “pink taco”—it sees the former (and considerably less horny) exchange student protégé of the legendary Van Wilder ascending the ranks to graduate school at Camford University. Falling prey to the whims of an egotistical fraternity leader, Taj (Kal Penn) finds himself resident advisor to the campus’s outcasts, only to simultaneously befriend the girlfriend of his wealthy and powerful arch nemesis. All that follows is formulaic to a tee, from the stock underdog personas to the necessary third-act contrivances, yet I’ll be damned if The Rise of Taj isn’t consistently amusing in its reckless embracement of hedonist values, even if the intended moral lessons about believing in and being yourself are older than Father Time himself. For my money’s worth, Penn bests the obnoxious Ryan Reynolds any day of the week (I was no fan of the original), which already makes this second endeavor far more pleasant to tolerate, if not quite as easy to swallow. The perpetual barrage of innuendos and wordplays is utterly shameless and better for it, even if the jokes themselves are completely hit-or-miss (although a string of dialogue that likens Taj’s competition with his English nemesis to historical England’s imperialist relationship with India is far funnier than it deserves to be). As expected, the film attempts to top the dog semen-filled pastry spectacle of the original, with equally over-the-top but far less disgusting results. Like any self-respecting National Lampoon entry, no gratuitous breast shot or overt reference to erections is too far for The Rise of Taj, and by allowing its romance subplot ample room to breathe (even if it denies it anything in the way of subtlety), the film displays enough heart to make it a cut above your typical Animal House retread.
- Mort Nathan
- David Drew Gallagher
- Kal Penn, Lauren Cohan, Daniel Percival, Glen Barry, Anthony Cozens, Steven Rathman, Holly Davidson, Tom Davey, William de Coverly, Beth Steel, Amy Steel, Jonathan Cecil, Roger Hammond
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