"National Lampoon's Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj" isn't exactly terrible, it's just sort of, well, a waste of time. Okay, wait, never mind; it is terrible. It's one of those films that really didn't need to happen; the time would have been better spent dreaming up a better vehicle for the film's star, Kal Penn, who, as contrasted in Mira Nair's wonderful adaptation of "The Namesake," is an extremely talented performer. Heck, he was leaps and bounds better in "Harold and Kumar" a few years ago. It's a shame to see his talents go to waste here.
Since the early 90's almost every film bearing the National Lampoon's name has been a less than desirable viewing experience. Admittedly, I enjoyed the first "Van Wilder" mostly for the charms and comedic prowess of its star, Ryan Reynolds and his sidekick, Taj (Penn). There were more laughs in the trailer for "Borat" than there was in the entirety of "The Rise of Taj," which is very unfortunate considering how funny Kal Penn can be at times.
"The Rise of Taj" follows Van Wilder's protégé, Taj, as he endeavors to earn his PhD from England's Camford University. What his degree was in eluded me for the entire film's running time. He has also, incidentally, been made the R.A. at a resident hosue known as the Barn. The Barn, coincidentally, houses the four dorkiest students on all of campus. These students are better known as Seamus (Glen Barry), an angry Irish fellow who hates everything British, Gethin (Anthony Cozens) the nerd who has deduced through his mathematical genius that Camford holds his best chances at getting laid, Simon (Steven Rathman) a seemingly mute vide-game junkie, and lastly there is Sadie (Holly Davidson), a low class, cockney nymph. Thus, it's up to Taj to rescue these folks from there dead end lives, helping them become more assertive and "cool" in the process.
I'd go into further plot details, but there's no real reason to, seeing as the plot is fairly derivative of the first film. I'm also certain by the brief plot intro I've given you can discern and define the subsequent details of the plot rather easily. The problem isn't so much the plotting is that the film is just flat all through out. The jokes, some actually funny, for the most part fall flat, the acting flat, even the cinematography is flat. Nothing about the movie really stands out and grabs your attention.
Most films of this type tend to try for the over the top or gross out humor and while that does exist here in varying degrees, none of it actually works. Scratch that there are some moments when Kal Penn does shine and a few other moments of genuine laughs but you have to dig through the muck that is the rest of the film to actually find any of those moments.
Directed by Mort Nathan and written by Drew David Gallagher, the best credits between them amount to choice episodes of "Golden Girls" and Cuba Gooding's "Boat Trip," shudder. I digress; Gallagher's only writing credit is "Rise of Taj," so at least we're safe from any other immediate bad comedies from either.
The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 transfer. Despite the film's actual flat look, the image is decent. Colors come through nicely, and the image is readily sharp, with no grain present.
The film is presented in an English Dolby 5.1 Surround and a Spanish Dolby Surround mix. The 5.1 is sold, dialogue comes through cleanlym and the surrounds are put to fair use during moments where music is more apparent. The film also comes with English and Spanish subtitles. I'm tempted to watch the film with the Spanish dialogue just to see if I might actually laugh more.
There' a fair amount of extras on the disc, the first being "Union Jack-Offs: The Making of 'The Rise of Taj'" a brief behind-the-scenes featurette that includes chats with the director, writer, and various cast members. "On Set in Romania: Kal Penn Tours 'The Barn'" features Penn around the film's set and on location. Seven deleted scenes, which total about 7 minutes in running time, offer nothing new or funny for that matter. The gag reel probably features more laughs than the entire film. Rounding out the extras are two music videos: "Get Steady" by Jonny Lives! and "Heads Will Roll" by Marion Raven.
Sigh, the things we go through for DVDTOWN can sometimes be a bit grating. It's films like these that really make me appreciate the in-between films and the great films even more. I rarely seek out films this disappointing; not that I really had high expectations going in, but one can hope. To say the least, I guess equal opportunity extends into bad filmmaking as well.