December 1, 2006 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | Film | December 1, 2006 |


Author’s Note: This is my second stab at reviewing Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj. If you’d like to see a critic attempt, and fail miserably, to take a reasonably enjoyable conceit and run it into the ground, you can see the original review here. What can I say? When you try something inventive, every once in a while it blows up in your face and ruins a day already marred by a shitty film. I got too fucking cute with it. The following is a more straightforward attempt — though, I’m now a little embarrassed I’ve wasted so much time on a film that certainly doesn’t merit it. Cheers.

The original Van Wilder may have been the then low-point of the National Lampoons films, at least until 2003’s Dorm Daze came along. It was, after all, a flick that featured Tara Reid as a “brainy reporter,” Curtis “Booger” Armstrong as elder statesman, a bulldog masturbating into an ├ęclair, an ex-lax milkshake that elicited trash-can diarrhea, and the lowest-rent cameo money can buy in Erik Estrada. But for all its misogyny, gerontophobia, and lame gross-out humor, it still had Ryan Reynolds, whose smarmy sarcastic charm made Van Wilder at times downright amusing. Reynolds, whose only discernible talent, it seems, is stealing scenes in otherwise horrible films (Waiting, Just Friends, and Blade: Trinity, to name a few) may actually be the one guy who had to potential to extract a laugh out of Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj. Too bad nobody bothered to cast him.

Without the charismatic Reynolds, the tiny, addled brain of director Mort Nathan (who wrote Boat Trip, for fuck’s sake) can’t even piece together a goddamn gross-out joke respectably. In fact, the only prank the entire film attempts is to feed a large show-dog some Viagra, but even then, the big dog/little dog fornication is left to the imagination of the viewer up and until we are blessed with a rainstorm of ejaculate. Good times, if you like the sort of scatological comedy a three-year-old kid could produce with a few minutes around the toilet trainer.

The film opens in an airplane, with Taj on his way to England, where he’s set to carry on his father’s “Sultan of the Sheets” legacy as a member of the Fox and Hounds, a racist, classist fraternity to which Taj’s father purportedly belonged. It is on that airplane that Taj attempts to join the scalded genitalia mile-high club by dousing his penis in hot-sauce while a generic, large-chested blonde gets his rocks off, a particularly unfunny scene with little bearing on any of the rest of the film, though the same could be said of most of Van Wilder 2’s scenes.

Once Taj arrives, Pip Everett, the Earl of Grey, informs him that his acceptance letter contained a typo — it should have said he was not accepted into the Fox and Hounds, a typo that doubles as the film’s one running gag. Funny one, eh? Taj is instead shipped off to the Barn, a ramshackle dormitory that houses an assortment of other losers, who found their way to the Barn via the same typographical error.

Among the key members of the Barn are Seamus (Glen Barry), whose sole talent appears to be head-butting; Gethin, (Anthony Cothens), who has mathematically calculated that Camford University has the highest number of attractive women willing to fuck pathetic geeks; Simon (Steven Rathman), who is completely silent during most of the film — as it turns out, he has an 11-inch penis that pulls most of the blood from his brain, rendering him speechless; and finally, Sadie (Holly Davidson), whose face is given about one-tenth of the screen time given to her cleavage. Oh — she also has a cockney accent, which you can listen to discuss the intricacies of fellatio as the camera lingers between her breasts. All thoroughly well rounded characters, to say the least. No matter, really — they’re only there as sounding board for Taj’s increasingly lame sexually-themed puns, penned by a first-time writer (David Drew Gallagher) whose most notable contribution to pop culture was as “Nerdy Frat Guy #1” in a 1993 episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” something I’m sure provided all the credentials he needed to subject 2,500 movie screens to his ruminations on the female anatomy (“Sunny side up on the way to the butt”).

Anyway, Taj, discouraged with the apathetic state of his housemates, decides to form the Cock and Bulls, a Revenge of the Nerds-inspired fraternity, assembled to compete against the Fox and Hound for the coveted Camford Cup, which is a goddamn trophy where all the film’s humor apparently resides, permanently sealed within its brass confines, where it will remain as punishment to film critics who poorly execute silly conceits.

Conveniently enough, Taj is also a teaching assistant, charged with instructing his housemates on English history, which he does by way of a London tour bus and a paintball re-enactment of some French and English war, which is about as inspired as a Napoleon Dynamite/Larry the Cable Guy debate on the merits of luncheon meat (man, I loved that fake ham-like substance with hunks of cheese built in — whatever happened to that?). The head T.A., Charlotte Higginson (Lauren Cohan) isn’t a fan of Taj’s 10th-rate John Keating teaching style, however, and says as much up and until he wins her over in a poetry reading, in which he strings together song names from Green Day, R.E.M., and U2 (no, seriously — for a full five minutes. I actually felt my brain leaking from my ears.)

The problem, of course, is that Charlotte is betrothed to Pip, and Pip is a wanker, which means that Taj will have to win the Camford Cup and somehow humiliate Pip in the process to attain Charlotte’s eternal affection and win the respect of … whomever the fuck it is that doesn’t respect him. I’m not really spoiling anything that isn’t spoiled the second you walk into the theater by saying that he does so, during the final fencing competition, which features absolutely nothing original, enjoyable, or worthy of keeping you awake (the two other attendees to the screening I was at both left 45 minutes into the film to go do something more pleasurable, like bathe with a hair dryer).

Van Wilder 2 is a bad film, which is obvious enough in the fact that not even Tara Reid makes a return appearance, choosing instead to do an incredibly low-budget bowling film featuring Robert Carradine. But, goddamn — it doesn’t even try. It’s not just a terrible film for reasonably minded folks — surefire morons wouldn’t find it entertaining, either (and if you’re that surefire moron who did, I offer my apologies and hope that someday you find a friend at the AAMR). I mean, seriously — how hard would it be to satisfy its core audience, made up of largely drunk college kid(s) who have to coordinate brain cells to make it to the theater on time? How difficult would it be to throw in a few topless women jumping on trampolines and a couple of English fraternity guys who puke Stella out of their nose? Hell, Jimmy Kimmel does that shit five nights a week, and God knows that he hasn’t even fully evolved yet — his knuckles still scrape the ground when he walks. Clearly, however, Mort Nathan and his amoebic-sized intelligence and prokaryotic sense of humor haven’t even made it that far on the evolutionary scale.

Hell, a movie like this doesn’t even warrant worst film of the year, because to anoint it as would be to call attention to it — it’s like mocking Kevin Federline. You’re just feeding the motherfucking beast, when it ought to be left to die, alone, in a hot desert, neck-deep in sand, forced to listen to its own music until its dreads melt in the sun and seep slowly into its skull, until the cranium warps and folds, falling into the oral cavity, where it trickles down into the lungs and rots until the buzzards and centipedes eat its remains. And that ought to be the fate of Van Wilder 2.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He is currently halfway through a three-year ‘sentence’ in upstate, NY, where he lives with his wife. You may email him, or leave a comment below.

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Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj / Dustin Rowles

Film | December 1, 2006 | Comments ()






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