Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj (2006)

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Van Wilder’s assistant Taj is back in his own movie and much like his mentor, he helps a ragtag group gain the respect they deserve in this hilarious and fun sequel.

After his freshman year at Coolidge College, where he learned about life from the legend that is Van Wilder, Taj Mahal Badalandabad is headed to his father’s alma mater, Camford University in England. He is supposed to initiated into the Fox and Hounds, the most prestigious house of the university. However, due to a “typographical” error, Taj is instead relegated to the Barn, where he becomes the resident advisor to a ragtag group consisting of Irish rugby player Seamus, nerdy Gethin, promiscuous Sadie, and the silent Simon. Learning they too were pranked by the Fox and Hounds upon entry, Taj decides to do something about it.

Taj, determined to get both his respect and the respect of his peers back, form their own house known as the Cock and Bulls. When the Fox and Hounds are determined to once again become the winners of the Hastings Cup, Taj and his friends soon become some tough competition, taking full advantage of the members’ greatest strengths, which angers Fox and Hounds leader Pip, whose ancestors pretty much founded the school. To make things worse, Taj has fallen hard for Pip’s girlfriend Charlotte, whose parents are not too impressed with Taj because of his upbringing. However, when the final competition pits Taj and Pip, it is the snobs vs. the ones who deserve respect.

Who would have ever imagined that the cult classic of Van Wilder would have a sequel and not have Van himself? Well, it is perfectly okay because aside from Ryan Reynolds becoming a breakout star from that film, the other breakout star came in the form of Kal Penn, who brought the hysterics as Van’s assistant and protégé Taj. With Penn being one half of the hilarious Harold and Kumar as they go to White Castle in 2004, the idea was for Penn to carry his own comedy film and what better way than to bring out the character of Taj?

The film takes the classic theme of outcasts proving to gain the respect they deserve against the hands of the elite and adds a bit of the raunchy humor that made the original Van Wilder its cult classic. Granted, don’t expect a repeat of some eclairs, but something far worse at a dog show that will just stun viewers. Penn brings the confidence to the role of Taj as he teaches an eclectic group, from a Cockney promiscuous gal to a nerdy type, to become confident and outspoken against the elite Fox and Hounds, led by the arrogant Pip, played by Daniel Percival.

Of course, one aspect that is similar from the original is the love interest of the film. Where Van and frat head Richard pine for the love of Gwendolyn in the original, Taj and Pip both find themselves in love with teaching supervisor Charlotte, played by The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan. It is clear throughout the film that Charlotte has loyalty to Pip yet can’t help be attracted to Taj for his helping the outcasts and showing them the respect they deserve.  She even teaches Taj the art of fencing when it proves to be exactly what he needs for the final stage of the Hastings Cup.

Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj takes some of the themes from the original film and some things may be repetitive, but it does prove that Kal Penn is able to carry out a film on his own and if you liked the original, chances are you will enjoy this one.

WFG RATING: B

MGM presents a Myriad Pictures production in association with Tapestry Films and Bauer-Martinez Entertainment. Director: Mort Nathan. Producers: Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy, Andrew Panay, Elie Samaha, and Natan Zahavi. Writer: David Drew Gallagher; based on characters created by Brent Goldberg and David T. Wagner. Cinematography: Hubert Taczanowski. Editing: John Axness and Sherwood Jones.

Cast: Kal Penn, Lauren Cohan, Daniel Percival, Glen Barry, Anthony Cozens, Steven Rathman, Holly Davidson, Tom Davey, William de Coverly, Beth Steel, Amy Steel, Jonathan Cecil, Roger Hammond, Kulvinder Ghil, Shobu Kapoor.

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