National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj
The sidekick (Kal Penn) to the campus bigshot in the dim-bulb 2002 comedy transfers to a staid English college, where he applies the lessons he learned at his mentor’s knee to a motley group of English and Irish dorks in a run-down fraternity house. This sequel is “Van Wilder” in name only, since original star Ryan Reynolds wisely took a pass on coming back for more (he appears only in a briefly glimpsed photograph), leaving Penn to carry the whole film. Penn is likeable, but not enough to save him from first-timer David Drew Gallagher’s juvenile script or Mort (Boat Trip) Nathan’s crass direction. The supporting cast is largely inexperienced (Penn has more feature film credits than the top six of them combined), but like him, they do their best to squeeze out some laughs, with only fitful success.