A modest hit in theatres and on DVD, "Van Wilder" has spawned a sequel, bumping up the first film's sidekick, Taj (Kal Penn, who has since starred in such films as "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle") to top billing. Wilder (played by Ryan Reynolds in the prior films)'s protégé, Taj heads to England this time around to Cambridge University.
When he's kicked out of an elite frat his family has been a member of in years past within the first few minutes of the movie, Taj heads out to an old building called the barn ("Is it red? No. Then it's not a barn."), a falling-apart residence hall in the middle of a field that holds a group of losers, including a nerd, a soccer hooligan, the easy and shrill girl and a kid who rarely speaks.
I think you can see where I'm headed here, as it doesn't take long for the movie to set-up the usual formula where the underdogs top the snooty kids (and, is it any surprise that this takes place the college's famed tournament.) Rarely does "Rise of Taj" not go for the easy joke (the movie uses the fact that Taj's dog is named Balzac - which is made to sound like "ball sac" every time it's used) or predictable plot, although at least the picture does stand above the rest of the National Lampoon's pictures that have come out in recent years (although that's not saying much.)
The performances aren't anything to write home about, as while Penn has had previous comedic success in films like "Harold and Kumar", this film shows that he really needs someone to play off of, as he's unable to carry this picture. Better is Lauren Cohan, who approaches being charming as Charlotte, the girl Taj tries to take from the snobbish Pip (Daniel Percival). Holly Davidson is also enjoyable as a cockney girl living in the barn who says exactly what's on her mind.
Directed by Mort Nathan ("Boat Trip"), "Van Wilder 2" is a generic film with few laughs. There's a few decent supporting efforts here and the picture is better than what most of National Lampoons has produced lately, but it's still entirely forgettable.
VIDEO: "Taj" is presented by Fox in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is just about average, with sharpness and detail that remained reasonably good throughout most of the show. However, some specks and marks were clearly noticable at times on the print used and some minor artifacting was seen. Colors looked bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is largely a comedy mix, with the surrounds there really only to provide some minor support for the film's rock soundtrack. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue and bassy tunes.
EXTRAS: A short "making of" featurette, a gag reel that's funnier than anything in the film, 7 deleted scenes, set tour, music videos and trailers for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: There's a few decent supporting efforts here and the picture is better than what most of National Lampoons has produced lately, but it's still entirely forgettable. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a few minor extras. Fans of mindless teen comedies will likely still give this a rental, but otherwise, I'd say skip it.
The Film D+