To engage in even a negative discussion about National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj would be giving the film much more attention than it deserves. Make no mistake about it, The Rise of Taj is the epitome of cinematic smut, and it’s not even the shamefully enticing kind of smut. It’s the kind of trash that makes you weep for the future of humanity. The “storyline” is simple. After graduating from Van Wilder 101, Taj (Kal Penn) heads to Camford University in England (for whatever reason) and joins up with a bunch of misfits to put the frat boys in their place. However, the story is merely an excuse to exploit and glorify the supposed debauchery of the college experience. By doing so, it supports an amoral world full of people who operate on a sub-human level. Which begs the question, “does [popular media] imitate life or does life imitate [popular media]?” Much like the rest of the “frat boy” humor sub genre, the Rise of Taj seemingly imitates fictitious pre-conceptions of college life. Sure, a part of the real life experience is drinking, sex, and dick and fart jokes, but if real life imitated the movie’s scale, we’d have a civilization that would resemble Idiocracy... which might not be far off.
Taj is a far cry from heyday of the National Lampoon series. These days, the Lampoon movies have titles such as Dorm Daze 2 and Pledge This! that are fittingly more porno-esque than National Lampoon-esque. Despite their goofiness, Animal House and Vacation had a relatable subtext – be it the collegiate outsider or family vacation. Taj barely has any text. The mere fact that the pimps who prostituted out this movie attempted to infuse a bit of thematic elements is an insult. Taj encounters all sorts of stuck up Brits and puts them in their places via the popular activities of fencing and badminton. The class struggle bashes you over the head and eventually equates to a pile of nothing as the aforementioned dick and fart jokes overshadow semblance of storytelling.
Taj rides the coattails of the Van Wilder namesake all the way to the bank, as the entertaining Ryan Reynolds isn’t even involved. In a perfect world, The Rise of Taj might actually stand for social injustices and an outlet for disillusioned college students. In this world, we get a couple more tit shots in this unrated version. If that’s what you’re looking for, look that up on the internet instead of funding this movie’s existence. Knowing people buy DVDs for the bonus material, MGM stacked the Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj with extras, as opposed to the bootleg treatment this movie deserves. First off, the video is presented in a crystal clear 1.85 : 1 anamorphic transfer – Standard fair as new releases are concerned. In turn, the audio is presented in the obligatory Dolby Digital 5.1, which provides a full spectrum during music cues and crisp dialogue from the front channel, so you can catch all those witty innuendos. A Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 is also presented.
As with the movie, getting through the bonus material is like a prisoner walking toward the execution room, as only death could free you from this torture. The deleted scenes were definitely deleted for a reason, but it does prove that they used the “best” material in the movie. The “gag reel” must be some sort of ironic satire because the only gag is on you for wasting your time with it.
By the time you get to the two featurettes – a brief making-of and a “watch Kal Penn do stuff” – your eyes are about to glaze over and you’re on the verge of losing consciousness. They are short and feel more like promotional material with Penn being funny and gloating about the movie; there’s no reason to watch them. Are you really going to learn anything from the making of The Rise of Taj?
Finally, there is an offering of music videos with music that is just as crappy as the film. When you finally reach the end of the bonus material, your mouth will be gaping and drooling and have lost all feeling in your extremities. The material on the DVD sucks that much life out of you. Avoid it like the plague.
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