Few current college students who know anything about the movies haven’t seen 2002’s “Van Wilder.” Though not the best of comedy troupe National Lampoon’s cinematic offerings, the original “Van Wilder” helped revive the struggling satirists responsible for “Animal House” (1978) and Chevy Chase’s “Vacation” series.

Morgan Morel
“Smells like somebody got into my White Castle!” (Courtesy of MGM)

But while National Lampoon is often lauded for these titles, the company is also responsible for at least 25 comedy bombs, and “Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj” falls resolutely into the latter category.

Like any sequel that isn’t as good as its predecessor, “Van Wilder 2” takes the original synopsis, characters and script and changes them only enough for the movie to pass as new. Director and co-writer Mort Nathan (the man behind Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s disastrous “Boat Trip”) apparently hoped an idealized view of a sexually liberal Europe would make the new “Van Wilder” mix original and creative, but the volatile blend explodes in his face.

After leaving Coolidge College and the tutelage of seven-year college student Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds, “Just Friends”), Taj Mahal Badalandabad (Kal Penn, “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”) moves to Camford College in England to pass on his American partying lessons to a handful of socially awkward undergrads.

Taj helps Camford’s new fraternity, the Cock and Bulls, to compete for the Hastings Cup, a prized trophy signifying academic, athletic and social achievements (shades of “Old School,” anyone?). Their main competition, of course, is the Fox and Hounds, a fellow frat house of pompous prestige.

Throughout the fraternity’s struggles, Taj also tries to woo his nemesis’s girlfriend, Charlie, played by the beautiful Lauren Cohan. Though you would expect Cohan could only go up from her tertiary part in the dud “Casanova,” she seems to have no unreachable new low in her roles.

Playing sidekick to Ryan Reynolds’s Van Wilder, Penn had some worthy moments – he was even funny as half of “Harold and Kumar’s” titular duo – but here Penn proves incapable of carrying a comedy on his own, lacking the dry sarcasm of Reynolds’s original “Van Wilder” protagonist and failing to elevate any lines or moments into something funny.

When a movie comes along that fails to inspire even one isolated chuckle in a half-filled theater of very mixed demographics, it’s hard to catalog it as a comedy, or – in the case of “Van Wilder 2” – as good in any way.

But there is a perfect category for this seemingly unclassifiable film, one that is gaining more and more titles with fiascoes like the recent “Date Movie”: crap.

Star Rating: 1/2 out of 5 stars

Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj
At the Showcase and Quality 16
MGM

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