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Good taste demands the immediate termination of National Lampoon, but alas, the cursed franchise has already done its damage to the American psyche. Once an edgy, political humor magazine and brand name that created innovative, if adolescent, romps like Animal House and Vacation, National Lampoon has devolved into a licensing entity that further sullies its besmirched cred through association with unfunny dreck like Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj. The original Van Wilder, with little to work with but Ryan Reynolds’ meager charm, eked out enough box office to spawn a sequel, but not even Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle motormouth Kal Penn can salvage this disastrous titty-flick. With Reynolds out of the picture, Penn, sporting a now-you-hear-me-now-you-don’t “Indian guy” accent, reprises his role as Wilder toady Taj Badalandabad, who exports fratboy high jinks to “Camford University” in England. Penn becomes captain of a band of misfits at Camford’s Cock and Bull House, facing expulsion as he battles rich, stuffy squares for BMOC status. Along the way, director Mort Nathan and writer David Drew Gallagher miss every opportunity to exploit this film’s one potential strength: non-Caucasian hero versus bigoted former colonizers. One doesn’t check out the Van Wilder series for class commentary, but when a racist, sword-wielding, bourgeois boob threatens Taj—“Let’s settle this like my ancestors did!”—and Taj parries—“You want to exploit me economically?”—the old National Lampoon shines for a moment. That moment isn’t particularly funny, but at least it’s smart. The Rise of Taj has dick jokes aplenty, but intelligence is in short supply. For inspiration, whoever’s cashing Lampoon’s checks need look no further than the institution’s own comedic legacy: What makes Harold & Kumar more than a stoner cult hit is its spot-on skewering of racial stereotypes. But oh, how the mighty Kumar fails us here—Penn looks as uncomfortable in Van Wilder 2 as we feel watching him slog through this warmed-over trash. Reynolds doesn’t even condescend to make a cameo, and who can blame him? He earned his spot on the B-list in Blade: Trinity. —Justin Moyer