[Screen It]

(2006) (Kal Penn, Lauren Cohan) (R)

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Comedy: A foreign student attends a prestigious college where he tries to help a bunch of outcasts while dealing with a snobby and elitist student.
Having learned the ropes of college life in the United States, Taj Mahal Badalandabad (KAL PENN) has set out for England's prestigious Camden University where he hopes to join the elite Fox and Hounds fraternal guild, much like his father before him. Yet, when he meets the organization's elitist leader, Pip Everett, the Earl of Grey (DANIEL PERCIVAL), he learns there was a mistake and he won't be allowed in. Instead, he'll serve as a teaching and resident assistant at the "barn," a rundown building housing a number of similar outcasts.

There's the rough and ready Seamus (GLEN GARRY), and the nerdy Gethin (ANTHONY COZENS) who likes Penelope (BETH STEEL) but is unable to single her out from her twin sister Alexandra (AMY STEEL). Then there's promiscuous Sadie (HOLLY DAVIDSON) and average guy Simon (STEVEN RATHMAN) who's concerned about the size of his manhood. Hoping to help them blossom as was taught to him back in America, Taj sees Pip as the main impediment to that.

Accordingly, he sets out to take him down a few notches, unaware that the lovely coed he's met, Charlotte "Charles" Higginson (LAUREN COHAN) is Pip's girlfriend. Naming their organization "Cock 'N Balls" to compete against the Fox and Hounds for the coveted Hastings Cup, Taj and his students do what they can to defeat Pip and put him in his place.

OUR TAKE: 0 out of 10
In the judicial system, one isn't supposed to base his or her judgment on a defendant on their past behavior, no matter how heinous and/or plentiful it might have been. Of course, in the real world, that's next to impossible to do, especially for those on the jury who don't have the training to wear such legal blinders and instead let their perceptions and biases affect their ruling.

The same holds true in the movie world where past track records of those involved in the making of a film often influence viewers - and especially critics - about how they'll react. In that regard, and tying in with the legal system's "three strikes and you're out" mentality," "Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj" has already committed enough cinematic crimes against humanity - even before it starts playing - that it should be locked away for good.

For starters, it's a sequel to the abysmal 2002 film of the same, if truncated, name that starred the less than stellar Ryan Reynolds and Tara Reid in a horrible comedy about college life. Its second strike is that it stars the first film's sidekick who also appeared in the awful "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" "comedy" that stunk up theaters back in 2004.

Then there's the final blow - it's been directed by same movie villain who assaulted us back in 2002 with "Boat Trip." If any film were more predisposed to cause stony silence, seat squirming and possible cranial damage, I don't want to see it, and you should follow that advice with this fiasco.

Lest you forget, this is one of those "National Lampoon" flicks designed to play to adolescent minds teeming with testosterone. If your thought of comedy is various colorful terms for female genitalia - not the archaically charming type of Austin Powers but rather variations of terms such as "taco" - then by all means waste your time, money and possibly some brain cells by taking in this offering.

Even so, those who somehow managed to enjoy the first film may ponder what happened to the title character and why this sequel is still named after him. I'm guessing there's some argument about "Van Wilder" being a snarky college state of mind, but the reality is those responsible want to cash in on what little financial success and meager name recognition the first film had (which isn't much on either account, especially outside the targeted demographic).

Whatever the case, only the original character's testicle-laden bulldog and golf cart make it back to the sequel, along with Kal Penn as the former exchange student who's now leading a pack of so-called misfits. He's "matured" from nerdy, sex-obsessed sidekick into Reynolds' now-vacated position of the disillusioned and lazy, but too cool for his surroundings leader.

Yet, in recycling material from the first film, the "American Pie" flicks (yes, the father walks in on the son in flagrante delicto) and just about any college-based comedy, director Mort Nathan and first-timer scribe David Drew Gallagher can't do anything original, imaginative or funny with their standard us vs. them, academic underdog tale, despite (or perhaps because of) the requisite randy students and scantly clad coeds.

The villain - played by Daniel Percival - is an elitist snob straight from the preppy jerk handbook, and his pretty girlfriend (Lauren Cohan) naturally falls for the bad boy jokester protagonist. Along the way of stealing her away and knocking the snob down a few notches, all sorts of hilarity is supposed to ensue. Alas, but certainly not surprisingly, this lame, forced, unfunny and sloppily conceived and executed "comedy" isn't anywhere in the same league as the valedictorian of the genre, "Animal House."

That is, except that it needs to be popped - much like Belushi's portrayal of a zit in that previous film - before it spreads and infects more theaters and then homes. One of the worst of the year, "Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj" rates as a 0 out of 10.

Reviewed December 1, 2006 / Posted December 1, 2006

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