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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Van Wilder rises again

Published: April 1, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

Remember the good old days when you were taught life lessons by the great Van Wilder about how to stay in college for about seven years and how to throw the best parties on campus? His sage advice is now taken overseas by his protge, Taj Mahal Badalandabad. In Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj, the quirky Taj (played by Harold and Kumar go to White Castles Kal Penn) leaves Coolidge College for Englands extremely prestigious Camford University. Naturally, hilarity and physical humor is prevalent through the entire film.

When Taj arrives at Camford and attempts to take his place in the fraternal home, he is turned away by the stock character of Pipp, Earl of Grey, the leader of the Fox and Hounds. In a somewhat clichd plotline, Taj then becomes the CA for the outcasts of the university who are Seamus the belligerent Irish rugby player, Gethin the brainy double major, Simon the silent video games addict, and Sadie the cockney nymphomaniac. Taj decides that he must bring these students up to their full potential and embarks on a mission to do so while making Pipp as miserable as he can. In order to do this, he creates a new fraternal home called The Cock and Bulls and this band of misfits then enters the school-wide competition to win the Hastings Cup (much like the Lambda Lambda Lambdas do in Revenge of the Nerds).

Oh, did I mention theres a love interest for Taj as well? Naturally, shes the entitled, rich girlfriend of Pipp. However, Charlotte is won over early in the film by Tajs unique teaching methods (such as taking the class on tours of London and re-enacting the Battle of Agincourt through a game of paintball) and general nice guy qualities. She also ends up helping him out of several difficult situations, thus nixing her as just being arm candy for all the men.

Kal Penn did a wonderful job portraying Taj as more then just a drunken partier (i.e. Mr. Wilder himself) and giving the character aspects of both the empowering mentor like Justin Longs Bartleby Gaines (Accepted) and the female-obsessed frat boy like Seann William Scotts Steve Stifler (American Pie). According to the film industry, audiences will be seeing Kal soon reprising his role as Kumar Patel in the Harold and Kumar sequel.

Though this film was entirely reminiscent of many teen/college comedy films, it still had its high points which make watching it enjoyable. The entire paintball sequence was both entertaining and funny, especially when the underdog team, Cock and Bulls devised innovative ways to win the game, such as dropping an entire bucket of paint on someones head while sitting in a tree. Naturally, Sadies feminine assets were exploited numerous times in such scenes, but given the genre of film, its only to be expected.

Even with all the good comedic aspects of the film however, its still the same plotline as many other comedies which has been reworked with a different main character and setting. This is not a problem if youre a fan of movies like EuroTrip, Dodgeball, and Zoolander and wouldnt mind seeing something quite similar but if youre looking for innovation and something brand new, Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj isnt the place to find it. That said, it is a good movie to watch when youre in the mood to laugh or just kill some time in the afternoon. In general, Id recommend this movie for a party or a casual date night. In closing, rent it, before you just run out and buy it.

The Hoot has a Van Wilder: Rise of Taj t-shirt to give away! Answer this question in order to have a chance to win it: In addition to his film career, what television show has Kal Penn had a recurring role on lately? Email your answer to