Wherein unreasonably free time is dedicated to proving Jonah Hill is funnier than you.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj

Why I Wanted to See it: I've been a Kal Penn fan since his line in American Desi[1] about what Indians and Black people have in common. Although the stereotypical nature of his Indian character "Taj" in the original Van Wilder was saddening, I found myself actually enjoying the movie one late night (for what it's worth: ditto with Eurotrip and 100 girls[2]). Throw Taj to the forefront, mix in some colony-metropole shenanigans by sending him to England, and I was in Dependency Theory heaven.

James BondageWhy I Hadn't Seen it: Either I missed the press screening or nobody told me when it was. I forgot, I mean, it was so long ago...

Why I Just Did: The Namesake got me all in a Penn-lovin mood.[3] More importantly, the Rockets/76ers game wasn't on national TV like the ESPN® website claimed it would be. only played 27 minutes so at least I didn't miss much.

Why I'm Glad I Did: Even a broken clock is right twice a day, so there were a few quotes that will stick out in my mind: "Nerd-per-willing chick ratios." "A horny, little care bear." "FLUX CAPACITOR." "Oh, our first fight!" "Milwaukee." In the small favors dept, somehow, Taj's family wasn't a crazy collection of caricatures.[4]

Why I Wish I Hadn't: No, it wasn't funny. Yes, it was sophomoric. At times, it made little to no sense.[5] Most of all, though, I'm disappointed by how superficially the whole India/England inextricability was treated. Having Taj's nemesis Pip be so blindly racist served to sequester the issue to one small segment of the story, but the real problem is how anti-Brown sentiment permeates all of British society. I'm not trying to say England is an especially racist country — nearly every state has its groups that it hates almost a priori — but it's not just the styled Highnesses that call desis "Pakis."

Expecting nuance out of a movie that made a running joke out of the phrase "diarrhea face" is obviously asking too much. Nor could any decent diasporic satire emerge when the Irish/Scot/British conflict is likewise treated as a trifle. Maybe I should be happy Taj gets in a "gora" jab, let alone that the most offensive thing about Penn's other-ness this time around is his total inability to maintain a realistic accent. Time was, Penn would never have been the star of a movie like this (and, given his lackluster box office record, he might not for a while unless the Harold & Kumar sequel takes off[6]). Shouldn't I be grateful for that?

[1] For the record, I knew about American Desi because I used to visit its producer's website, not because I had some sort of post-colonial assimilation story fetish. Well, not back then, anyway...
[2] Both happen to feature former Nickelodeon stars. Then Kal Penn appeared in
Love Don't Cost a Thing, which was rampant with Nickelodeon-ness, but I think that's one tangent too many.
[3] Unfortunately, I did not particularly care for the movie, mostly because I think the book has too wide a time span to condense (cf.
Roots). On the plus side, Tabu was gorgeous.
[4] I love alliteration. Should you not feel the same I suggest you give up on this blog
toute suite.
[5] Of all my gripes with its nonsense sensibility, I want to know why Taj would become a n English history TA when the subject so vehemently bores him. Why is going for a PhD, then? How much lying went into
that statement of purpose (and can he teach me how to replicate that by December)?
[6] Certainly, John Cho wouldn't get to make this movie, so let's not go patting ourselves on the back just yet.