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National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj

Genre: , ,

Cast: Kal Penn, Lauren Cohan, Daniel Percival, Glen Barry, Anthony Cozens

Director: Mort Nathan

Rated: R

Review By:
Rocco Passafuime

SUNY Purchase '05

"I don't compromise my values and I don't compromise my work. I won't give in." -Michael Moore

Release Date: March 27th, 2007
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Overall Grade: C

National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj

Review By: Rocco Passafuime

National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise Of Taj

In the last few years, Hollywood has flooded the market with gross-out sex comedies. The sheer number of these comedies probably hasn't been seen since the subgenre's original wave during the late 1970's and early 1980's.

However, as these kind of comedies up the ante to push the envelope in levels of sheer over-the-top grossness and sexuality, laughs and even any sort of remotely coherent story are sadly sacrificed. National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise Of Taj, which is now available on DVD, is such a film.

This sequel continues the story of former frat-outcast-turned-Van-Wilder-protegee Taj Mahal Badalandabad (Kal Penn). He's now graduated from Coolidge College and goes off to England with his dog Balzac to the elite Camford University as a graduate student and embarks on an apprenticeship as a teacher's assistant.

He hopes to join the prestigious fraternity of Fox And Hounds and live up to the ranks of his father's lady-killing glory days. However, his hopes are dashed as the aristocratic fraternity, led by the rich and arrogant Earl Of Grey, Pipp Everett (Daniel Percival), informs Taj that there's been a typographical mistake and ends up banishing the newcomer to a fraternity known as The Barn.

The Barn is made up of misfits who Taj soon discovers got a similar response from the Fox and Hounds. They include drunken, ill-tempered Irishman Seamus O'Toole (Glen Barry), mathematical and scientifically-skilled nerd Gethin (Anthony Corzins), silent and socially-withdrawn video game freak Simon (Steven Rathman), and well-endowed Sadie (Holly Davidson), who has a penchant for always speaking in vulgar Cockney.

Taj decides to band together his new charges and rechristen them as the Cock And Bulls to compete against Fox And Hounds and other fraternities to win the prestigious Hastings Cup. As they rise in the ranks, the rivalry between the two fraternal guilds grows more intense as Taj soon falls in love with his supervisor Charlotte Higginson (Lauren Cohan), who is also Pipp's girlfriend.

Kal Penn and much of the principal cast make valiant strides in making their thinly-written characters likable and engaging or, in the case of Daniel Percival's incredibly wicked Pipp character, deviously villainous. However, their efforts are crumbled against the numerous flaws that sap away any potential in the film.

What hurts the film more than anything is its train wreck of a script. The film's plot is an incredibly incoherent mix of both Revenge Of The Nerds and the greatest film to bear the National Lampoon brand, Animal House.

Adding insult to injury, the film's crudity meter is off-the-charts without any of it being very funny. There is poor and downright unfunny dialogue, more gratuitous topless girl shots than you can shake off a stick, characters that are mostly nothing more than slothfully and thinly-written ethnic stereotypes, and scenes that are crass and just plain ridiculously gross. It's this kind of lazily-written

and slap-together mediocrity that makes you wonder why this ever got theatrically released at all, as the film's sole redeeming factor is Kal Penn's likable screen presence.

The DVD's picture quality is in the 1:85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, with the sound quality in Dolby Digital Surround 5.1. The DVD is also packed with plenty of special features.

The first feature is a behind-the-scenes featurette titled Union Jack-Offs: The Making Of The Rise Of Taj. The featurette contains plenty of noteworthy information about the making of the film and contains fun interviews with Kal Penn, the cast, and crew.

The second feature is the featurette On Set In Romania: Kal Penn Tours The Barn, which essentially is Penn goofing off during filming with the cast and crew in a highly cynical attempt to film material to fill up space on the DVD. Another feature is an array of numerous deleted scenes that are noteworthy only in how many of them seemed to potentially bog down the film if they hadn't been removed from the final cut.

Also included are two music videos from the film's soundtrack. The first one, Jonny Lives!'s "Get Steady", is mildly amusing and features a cameo from Kal Penn.

The second one, Marion Raven's "Heads Will Roll", is of little noteworthiness, except for its sheer presence of scantily-clad girls. And rounding out the special features is a gag reel, which is occasionally amusing, but of very little to write home about.

All in all, despite Kal Penn and the rest of the cast's best efforts, National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise Of Taj is undeniable proof of how tired and unfunny the gross-out sex comedy genre has become in its current formula. Hopefully, the next filmmaker and screenwriter that makes one will learn that making the films more gross and over-the-top alone is not a concrete litmus test for how successful the film will be.

Movie Grade: D
DVD Grade: C
Overall Grade: C

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