A few good gags that surface from time to time generally thanks to Kal Penn.
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
A few good gags that surface from time to time generally thanks to Kal Penn.
Another uninspired college comedy that bites the dust
At the beginning of The Rise of Taj, we re-join Van Wilder sidekick Taj (Kal Penn) en-route to London on a passenger jet. During his flight, he strikes up a conversation with a blonde, buxom businesswoman, who happens to have a fondness for imported Indian sp*ces. Being that Taj is carrying an Indian sp*ce on his person, the woman goes into sexual convulsions for a taste. She then accompanies Taj to the jet bathroom, rips her blouse off, and licks the sauce from his genitals. Is this a dream? Not in the raunchy, sexually-charged world of National Lampoon.

The National Lampoon name has gone on a wishy-washy roller coaster. What began with AFI classics such as Animal House has slumped into straight-to-video territory with titles such as Last Resort (starring everyone's favorite two Coreys). However, the name was somewhat resurrected thanks to the charismatic presence of Ryan Reynolds in Van Wilder, which was granted a theatrical release. Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj is a sequel that has absolutely nothing to do with the Ryan Reynolds character, but instead banks on the recent popularity of Harold and Kumar star Kal Penn as leading man material. Unfortunately, this forgettable sequel is further proof of how the mighty National Lampoon name has fallen.

After Van Wilder has taught him the how-to's of scoring with the ladies, Taj gains the confidence to move to London after he is accepted into his father's upscale fraternity. However, he finds his acceptance is merely a joke played by the uppity brotherhood. In a premise strikingly similar to Animal House, Taj is sent to supervise The Barn, which houses the school's most pathetic students. This gives the world traveler the opportunity to utilize his people skills. After a few pep talks, Taj convinces his housemates to overcome labeling and prove to the hot shots that good looks and money does not always buy respectability. Oh yes...did I forget the sex jokes and every character's important mission to score?

I will come up front and say that The Rise of Taj is not a god-awful movie. Yes, it is branded with the National Lampoon kiss of death, but something keeps this film from completely sinking into a puddle of pure disgust. This is the casting of Kal Penn as the leading man. It is a tad ridiculous that the film fails to even feature its title character (Van Wilder), but Penn has proven himself to be quite the refreshing presence as of lately. In the predecessor film, Penn played his character as an insecure Indian stereotype. While his pathetic, horndog tendencies still remain in the sequel, Penn plays the role of a confident player quite well. He is particularly talented at delivering clever one-liners with deadpan expressions.

Despite the undeniable talent of Kal Penn and a few funny moments, The Rise of Taj still desperately reaches for solid sight gags. What it comes up with are uninspired gross-out jokes. Maybe this style of humor still works for some, and maybe it worked years ago when There's Something About Mary broke gross-out comedy barriers, but it was hard for me not to hide my face in shame during some of these scenes. One example includes a dog show gone awry when a Great Dane ejaculates gallons of semen onto an unsuspecting crowd of dog show snobs. It is far-fetched moments such as these that rob any comedy of its credibility.
Union Jack-Offs: The Making of The Rise of Taj

This is a 10-minute, run-of the mill featurette that goes behind the scenes. The movie is not exactly a cinematic masterpiece that requires in-depth commentary from its filmmakers. Therefore, much of this is obvious summary from the cast and director, Mort Nathan. However, this does dish out the art of flinging dog semen and strapping fake testicles to an English bulldog.

On Set in Romania: Kal Penn Tours "The Barn"

Kal Penn serves as a guide for a DV camera that wonders around the sets of the film, which is shot in Romania rather than England for budgetary reasons. The shooting in Romania aspect is interesting to note, but most of this is hollow filler.

Gag Reel and Deleted Scenes

The deleted scenes run about 7 minutes and provide a few snickers. However, they do not bring anything new to the table about the plot. I am sure much could be cut from this film without taking away from its simple storyline and bodily fluid gags. As for the gag reel, it is a tad disappointing. It is rather short and there is something dry about it compared to reels I have seen in the past. A bland montage of people tripping on their lines does not compare to a fully loaded gag reel equipped with pre-planned jokes from its comical talent.

The DVD also includes a couple of music videos.
Widescreen. As far direction goes, this is a film shot on a decent budget that does not look any different from Walt Becker's direction in the predecessor. Films of the National Lampoon group are more about tossing around outrageous funnies rather than creating something aesthetically pleasing.
5.1 Dolby Surround Sound. You will not miss much from this experience if you keep the stereo speakers off. It does not take supersonic sound to appreciate hackneyed cracks about fellatio and vaginas.
Standard DVD keep case. Kal Penn is pictured on the cover with two bikini-clad beauties. The case is packaged with a small slip sleeve that really serves no purpose.
If I could summarize The Rise of Taj briefly, I would call it a 90-minute-long Axe body spray commercial. There was once a time when these juvenile male fantasy comedies were original, but flicks such as this have simply overstayed their welcome. How many more awkward predicaments involving sex and embarrassment can these writers crank out? If you are still craving college sex comedies, then give this a rental. Otherwise, I recommend passing this one up on Netflix.

Questions? Comments? Just want to talk movies? Drop me a line at dodd@movieweb.com

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