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December 04, 2006 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-12-04

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, December 4, 2006 - SA

Like father, like son: Ben Taylor works The Ark.

Taylor embraces,
reflects pedigree

"Smells like somebody got into my White Castle!"

The bottom's the limit
PENN CAN'T SALVAGE NATIONAL LAMPOON'S LATEST FAILURE

By ELIE ZWIEBEL
Daily Arts Writer
Few current college students who know
anything about the movies haven't seen 2002's
"Van Wilder." Though not
the best of comedy troupe . j
National Lampoon's cine- Van Wilder
matic offerings, the origi- 2: The Rise
nal "Van Wilder" helped of Taj
revive the struggling sati-
rists responsible for "Ani- athe Sha e
mal House" (1978) and
Chevy Chase's "Vacation" MGM
series.
But while National Lampoon is often lauded
for these titles, the company is also responsible
for at least 25 comedy bombs, and "Van Wilder
2: The Rise of Taj" falls resolutely into the lat-
ter category.
Like any sequel that isn't as good as its pre-
decessor, "Van Wilder 2" takes the original
synopsis, characters and script and changes

them only enough for the movie to pass as new.
Director and co-writer Mort Nathan (the man
behind Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s disastrous "Boat
Trip") apparently hoped an idealized view of
a sexually liberal Europe would make the new
"Van Wilder" mix original and creative, but
the volatile blend explodes in his face.
After leaving Coolidge College and the tute-
lage of seven-year college student Van Wilder
(Ryan Reynolds, "Just Friends"), Taj Mahal
Badalandabad (Kal Penn, "Harold and Kumar
Go to White Castle") moves to Camford Col-
lege in England to pass on his American par-
tying lessons to a handful of socially awkward
undergrads.
Taj helps Camford's new fraternity, the Cock
and Bulls, to compete for the Hastings Cup, a
prized trophy signifying academic, athletic and
social achievements (shades of "Old School,"
anyone?). Their main competition, of course,
is the Fox and Hounds, a fellow frat house of
pompous prestige.
Throughout the fraternity's struggles, Taj

also tries to woo his nemesis's girlfriend, Char-
lie, played by the beautiful Lauren Cohan.
Though you would expect Cohan could only
go up from her tertiary part in the dud "Casa-
nova," she seems to have no unreachable new
low in her roles.
Playing sidekick to Ryan Reynolds's Van
Wilder, Penn had some worthy moments - he
was even funny as half of"Harold and Kumar's"
titular duo - but here Penn proves incapable of
carrying a comedy on his own, lacking the dry
sarcasm of Reynolds's original "Van Wilder"
protagonist and failing to elevate any lines or
moments into something funny.
When a movie comes along that fails to
inspire even one isolated chuckle in a half-
filled theater of very mixed demographics, it's
hard to catalog it as a comedy, or - in the case
of "Van Wilder 2" - as good in any way.
But there is a perfect category for this seem-
ingly unclassifiable film, one that is gaining
more and more titles with fiascoes like the
recent "Date Movie": crap.

By CAITLIN COWAN
DailyArts Editor
Ben Taylor, the 29-year-old off-
spring of James Taylor and Carly
Simon, must
be sick to Ben Taylor
death of being and Sonva
his parents' Kitchell
son. Some of
the patrons at At The Ark
The Ark this Friday
past Friday,
most of whom were suspiciously
middle-aged, may have been drawn
to Taylor because of his blood: oth-
ers,tohissoothingvoice andmellow
grooves. But after acoustic guitarist
David Saw's opening set and a short
intermission, Taylor loped onto the
stage'in ill-fitnggrey khakis, a yel-
low T-shirt and a five o'clock shad-
ow, and all comparisons seemed to
converge.
The first person who comes to
mind when Taylor opens his mouth
isDylan(witnessthe crowd's hushed
whispers of "Dylan! Dylan!"). But
after a few minutes, it became
clear the apple does not fall far
from the tree. Taylor turns phrases
and strums melodies in a way that
is overwhelmingly similar to his
father's music. His voice, while abit
deeper, has the same curved quali-
ties. He even has his father's mouth
and slight, endearing underbite.
While his songs - a mix of jam
sessions and stripped-down acous-
tic solos - are reminiscent of his
musical upbringing, they're truly
his own. Ben ventures further from
typical song construction than his
father ever did, and appeals to both
today's young audience and the
elder Taylor's fans.
Ben made use of his cross-gener-
ational appeal once again on one of
the last songs he performed. Titled
"I Am the Sun," Taylor informed the
audience with a wry grin that the
last word of the title is spelled s-u-n.
Despite the light-hearted disclaim-
er, the lyrics to the song tell a dif-
ferent story: not about planets, but

about parents. The song explodes
with, "I am the sun / That's all I've
ever been since I begun/All I'll ever
be until I'm done."
Taylor, who was reluctant to
become a musician like both of
his celebrated parents, explored
many avenues before succumb-
ing to what he felt was his only
calling. On this song he sings
resonantly, "Even though I chase
the darkness every day / Shad-
ows only ever seem to run away."
While it's foolish to take any song
lyrics too literally, the tremendous
urge to identify with Taylor based
on the limited confessions buried
in his lyrics is strong. He's acutely
aware of his inescapable upbringing
and understandahly concerned with
blazing his own musical path.
Sonya Kitchell and her husky,
sultry sex-kitten voice joined Taylor
and his band on the song "When I
Was a Cowboy"before she returned
Likable Taylor
doesn't fall far
from family tree.
for her own set later that night.
The blonde Kitchell and her swel-
tering vocals were astonishing to
hear, but after Taylor finished and
left the stage complaining of a cold,
the ambiance in the room tangibly
deflated. He had held the audience
spellbound for his entire set, and it
was plainly sad to see him go.
At one point during the show,
Taylor asked with a madman's
smile, "So what do y'all reckon, do I
sound like James Taylor?" He raised
and lowered his eyebrows in ques-
tion and the audience cheered and
laughed encouragingly. If this show
is any indication of Taylor's future,
it's sure to beas bright as the sun he
sings about, brilliant parents or oth-
erwise.

1, Love across the (literal) ages

By HYATT MICHAELS
Daily Arts Writer
Twenty-year-old Harold Chasen
has some disturbing issues. Not
unlike a pres-
ent-day emo Harold and
brat, he assem- Maude
bles elabo- Tonight at 7 p.m.
rate pranks At the
for parental Michigan Theater
attention,
and the young Brit's jokes are a
bit grandiose: He fakes his death
with theatrical precision. Harold
takes delight in scaring everyone
around him until the wisdom of
79-year-old hippie Maude (Ruth
Gordon, "Rosemary's Baby") steers
him down a brighter path. Com-
mercially ignored during its initial
release, 1971's "Harold and Maude"
has since become one of the most
beloved cult comedies of its time.
And with sharp wit, wicked set
designs and spot-on performances,

it's no wt
What
immatur
py youth
ered bril
Doe Jers
manages
angst an
without:
When
high-spir
bination
Bo
angs
Ol
two mee
strikes u
painfully
ing to ac

ander. - and Harold looks on in shock as
could've easily been an the vehicle's real owner goes run-
e take on Harold's unhap- ning after it.
its turned into multi-lay- Ruth Gordon won an Academy
liance by Bud Cort (John Award for torturing Mia Farrow in
ey in "Dogma"). The actor "Rosemary's Baby," and she infuses
to pull off a mixture of Maude with the same elderly spunk
id child-like fiendishness (albeit a lot less satanic nosiness).
forcing it. Even when spitting out an occa-
he joins forces with the sional wise-elder platitude, Gordon
rited Maude, their com- does it with enough grit to make
is simply hilarious. The you forget its "Chicken Soup for the
Soul"-likeness.
Outside of the two lead perfor-
y beats teen mances, the supporting cast shines
- take special note of Harold's
t with (much) long-suffering mother and her
assembly line of prospective girl-
der woman. friends and psychiatric help. With
the combination of the direction
of underrated Hal Ashby ("Being
There"), a Cat Stevens soundtrack
t at a funeral when Maude and some visually stunning back-
p a conversation with the drops, "Harold and Maude" is as
shy Harold while walk- quirky as it is understated - and
car. Maude then drives off highly effective.

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