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Review: National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj

May 25, 2012

National Lampoon has kind of a complicated backstory. It all started at Harvard University in 1876 with the first publication of undergraduate humor magazine Harvard Lampoon. After a century of publication, three Harvard graduates and alumni of the magazine licensed the “Lampoon” name for a national monthly publication, which lasted from 1970 to 1998. This is the National Lampoon of such movies as Animal House and the Vacation series, and is not the incarnation we are concerned with today.

No, today’s fare comes from National Lampoon, Inc., formed in 2002 to use the “National Lampoon” name. The more recent company has a terrible record in picking their CEOs, with one convicted of stock manipulation and a second stands charged with operating a Ponzi scheme. But all that’s beside the point. No, what is on topic is that NLI’s first movie, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder made back its five million dollar budget, and then thirty-three million dollars after that.

Which brings us to The Rise of Taj. This is my first time seeing it, so I’m going in blind apart from the fact that it has Kal Penn in it. We begin the movie with Taj on his way to England to attend the same college that his father went to, and to join the same fraternity. However, on his arrival, the fraternity head informs him that he has been rejected from the fraternity, and he is forced to house with the campus rejects. The rest of the plot can be summarized by the movies it cheats off of: Animal House (Taj as cool leader guy and the general hell that his new frat raises), Revenge of the Nerds (rejects forming their own frat and beating their enemies in the fraternity competition; reject frat leader stealing enemy’s girlfriend), Accepted (main character set up by douchebag enemy and reported to authority), and of course, Van Wilder (overly sexual tone and general raunchiness).

Now, on its own this wouldn’t necessarily be damning. After all, what is Star Wars but a western mixed with a World War II movie in space, but when there is so little else mixed in, it gets tedious fairly quick. That’s my real problem with this movie. It’s not objectively bad, it’s just that it never makes me want to give a shit. In fact, that’s why it took me so long to get to this review – I just don’t care about anything in this movie.

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