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National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj

Van Wilder being funny was almost a fluke. It worked because Ryan Reynolds is naturally charming and the script was barely good enough to give him something to work with. The result was the first legitimately entertaining movie to bear the moniker of "National Lampoon" in a very long time, and also the last. The sequel isn't just bad, it's unbearable. National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj is so horrible that at one point I tried to force myself to fall asleep, just so I wouldn't have to sit through any more of it. But the movie kept hammering its way into my brain, like breaking waves of Novocain being flushed directly into my frontal lobe. There was no escaping it. It's one of those rare films that's so bad it's not even unintentionally funny. There's nothing to redeem it, it's 95 minutes of pain. Van Wilder 2 is a succubus; a soul sucking, deeply numbing, supremely crappy piece of film.

Look, we all knew it wasn't going to be any good the minute Ryan Reynold's name went missing from Van Wilder 2's IMDB page. I just don't think anyone realized it would be this bad. Instead of Reynolds, Kal Penn takes over as the movie's leading man In the first movie Kal Penn was Van Wilder's funny little Indian protege Taj, in the second movie he's graduated from Van's school of cool and moves on to make his own mark at a new school by practicing Van Wilder's teachings. He's transferred to a stuffy British University and finds himself thrown in with the campus's local misfits. Undaunted, Taj sets out to beat all the campus's snooty, better fraternities at their own game by stealing the plot of every other college movie ever. All his band of losers need is a little confidence, and better agents.

Kal is absolutely terrible. The guy doesn't fit. Watching him on screen is like being stuck in the agony booth from the mirror universe on Star Trek. You know, the one where Spock has that rocking goatee? You're strapped in, you can't escape, all you can do is sit and suffer. You'd scream, but the machine is draining your life energy, your will to live. That's Kal Penn. The script turns him into a babbling brook of shit. He talks endlessly, giving speech after speech in which he dispenses cliche wisdom and proclaims himself king of the campus though Taj never actually gets around to doing anything that might prove it. If at any point in these speeches there are jokes, I'm completely at a loss to find them. Taj is a walking, talking, self-help book and there isn't anything we can do to stop him. He's not simply unfunny, he's a preachy little twerp who wouldn't know cool if it came up and reamed him in the ass. Here's another cliche for you Taj: Put up or shut up. You're all talk.

There are no jokes, there are no laughs, there's barely even a plot. The movie doesn't just rehash every overused, college comedy crutch it takes them and makes them suck in ways they've never sucked before. For instance there's the standard inter-fraternity competition. Bad enough that we're seeing another one of those, but where some movies put their frat boys in beer bong contests, Van Wilder 2 engages in a rousing round of badminton. That's right, fucking badminton. There's nothing less cinematic than badminton, let me tell you. Oh my god! Kal Penn just got hit with a shuttlecock! There may be a red mark! Don't get me wrong, there was tension, but most of it involved whether or not I'd kill myself before the movie ended or wait till it was over as a way of making a political statement.

The real bitch of it is that I like Kal Penn, but this is the second movie this year in which he's been used all wrong. In Superman Returns he barely had a line of dialogue. Here, he's taken to the other extreme and used as a leading man. Kal Penn is not a leading man; or if he is a leading man, he's not this kind of leading man. Maybe that's not fair though. There's nothing anyone could have done to save this piece of shit. We're not talking just bad writing or bad acting here. The movie's a technical nightmare too. It's full of obvious and confusing continuity errors, editing incompetence, and I don't think they've quite figured out how to use a steadycam. It's so bad, it's not even worth reacting to. The audience I saw it with was as quiet as death. There wasn't a laugh, a groan, or even a faint cry of "help me help me I can't take it anymore". That's the real mark of a truly bad movie. It gets no reaction. Nothing, just a lot of people fidgeting quietly in their seats wondering if their spouse will let them walk out.

Anyone who sees Van Wilder 2 deserves to be allowed to riot. If you pay to see it, you have my permission to trash the theater on your way out. Rip the seats up out of the floor and throw them at the screen. Go ahead, you've earned it. But no one is going to do that. The damn thing's too numbing. You'll leave it as half a person. I went in a man and came out a hollow shell, drained of vitality and dropped in a ditch by the worst movie of the year. Save yourself if you can.