Van Wilder 2: The Rise Of Taj (2006)

PRODUCER 1: We should make a sequel to Van Wilder.

PRODUCER 2: Ryan Reynolds costs too much-

PRODUCER 1: Kal Penn was in that “Harold and Kumar” movie last year! He’ll do!

PRODUCER 2: We don’t even have a script-

PRODUCER 1: Well, I’ve got this script from 1986. How about we just go through it and CTRL-F the star’s name with “Taj”, make the villain a racist and throw in two extremely brief references to Van’s character?

PRODUCER 2: I love it!

That is, I’m sure, how “Van Wilder 2: The Rise Of Taj”, was created. Were it not for 1990’s “Getting Lucky”, this would be in the conversation for worst comedy we’ve ever covered here. The first gag is Taj mentioning how he was “king of cool at Coolidge College” – if you laugh at that, you’ll probably be okay (because you’d clearly laugh at literally anything).

Into the beautiful English university of Camford comes a character with the same name and played by the same actor as Taj from part 1, but otherwise sharing no characteristics whatsoever. He’s basically Van Wilder, which either indicates Van rubbed off on him completely, or they just didn’t bother changing the spec script featuring Ryan Reynolds they’d already prepared. He’s come for his master’s degree and to work as a TA, and as his father (seen in a flashback from 1965, even though hippies and painted VW cards and all that wouldn’t come along for a few more years) is a legacy at the Fox & Hounds secret society, so he’s got a great place to stay – only they’re a bunch of idiots who apparently get to reject whoever they like then force those rejects to stay in a dilapidated barn somewhere on campus.

ASIDE: British universities don’t have fraternities, although they do have what amount to drinking clubs for rich people. No huge buildings, no bedrooms for members, none of that at all (one society I read about owns a building, but they rent most of it out and only have a small area to use as a “clubhouse”).

So, Taj is forced to go to the barn, and meets the collection of stereotypes that anyone who’s ever seen one of these movies before will know and “love”. The super-smart nerd, the violent Irishman, the slutty girl, and the computer gaming nerd; you may also spend a few seconds and think “this is going to end up in a competition of some sort, isn’t it?” and you’d be entirely correct. Taj forms the “Cock and Bulls” society and enters his outcasts in the Hastings Cup, a series of entirely unrelated events scattered throughout the term which the Fox & Hounds have dominated for years.

The villain, an actor whose career has hit the skids so hard he doesn’t even have a photo on IMDB, is doing a sort of evil Hugh Grant impersonation, and his girlfriend is Lauren Cohan, bumming around in trash like this til “The Walking Dead” catapulted her to stardom, with her extra-posh English accent just waiting for Taj to show a whisker of character growth so she can hop into bed with him. There’s nothing new at all here, and it’s so dull and formulaic I started doodling rather than writing notes, occasionally being roused to pen something like “they’re the most obvious body doubles I’ve ever seen” (although it appears Cohan didn’t use one) or “it’s like the worst 70s British farce ever”.

There are a very small number of bits that crack a smile, though. For instance, the bit where the villain, just before the “climactic” sword fighting scene, says ‘We are going to settle this like our ancestors would have!’ to which Taj responds ‘you’re going to exploit me economically?’ – a reminder that Kal Penn can deliver a line well when he really has to. There’s the small visual gag of the writers of newspaper articles having names like “Ben Derhover”, “Anita Hanjaab” and “Mike Oxsbig”. Taj’s parents, British sitcom stars Kulvinder Ghir and Shobu Kapoor, appear beamed in from a slightly funnier, more self-aware movie.

I don’t know where to lay the blame. Is it director Mort Nathan, who got his start as a writer / producer of “The Golden Girls”? Or is it writer David Drew Gallagher, a bit-part actor for whom this was his only writing credit? Or is it one of the 19 (!) listed producers?

It’s a movie made by people who have no idea about youngsters, or the UK, or comedy. Perhaps one of those 19 producers lost their virginity during a showing of long-forgotten 1984 Rob Lowe movie “Oxford Blues”, and wanted to recreate it only much much worse. I’m honestly at a loss here, people. It has no reason to exist – the first Van Wilder movie wasn’t that big a hit and Taj was a one-note supporting character, at best. Lazy is the best way to describe it – like Van apparently giving up his beloved dog to the guy he was briefly at college with, or saying Taj is from the USA when the first movie very clearly said he was Indian (perhaps to justify his constant accent slips).

As I hope I’ve indicated in the last five years, I like lowbrow humour as much as the next man (significantly more than most) but I also like it when the people who have the huge privilege of getting paid to make movies actually put some effort in. This is a miserable failure.

Rating: thumbs down


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