The first "Van Wilder" (2002) rode the considerable charisma of lead Ryan Reynolds through a good-natured sex-and-school romp. A sequel may have sounded good on a spreadsheet, but a "Van Wilder" movie without Van Wilder (or the original's writers or director)? Isn't that like Kevin sans Britney or Destiny's Child without Beyonce?
"Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj" is just such a day without sunshine. The Big Man on Campus baton has been passed from Van to protege Taj (Kal Penn, "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle"), who takes his newly acquired mojo to a student-teaching post in England. It is refreshing to see an Indian American protagonist in this kind of flick, especially because he's past his awkward stage and is essentially Van reincarnated.
So much for the good news.
The bad news comes in the form of credited writer David Drew Gallagher (his first produced screenplay), whose knuckles must be blanched from clutching the college-movie playbook, and director Mort Nathan ("Boat Trip"), who catches neither the tone nor the spirit of the original. To be fair, their task is analogous to taking over USC's football program after Pete Carroll has absconded to the NFL with everyone but the mascot. Still, to make a movie this charmless and uninspired takes a certain negligence that is rare among even the most cynical Hollywood moneymaking exercises.