American Pie 2 (United States, 2001)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

In the case of American Pie, more is less. As in less funny, less sexy, and much, much less enjoyable. This sequel, like so many that have preceded it this year, exists exclusively because its forerunner made a lot of money - and the lack of inspiration behind the movie shows in every frame. Desperation permeates the production - a desperation to match the outrageousness, hilarity, and vulgarity of the first American Pie. Only in the third category does it come close. Everything about this picture is flat - the performances, the direction, the screenplay, the "comic" sequences, and the energy level. Yet, as big a dud as the movie is, it will doubtlessly be a huge hit, because the movie-going public no longer seems to care about film quality, as long as they see a few familiar faces. Two years from now, we'll probably be watching American Pie 3.

The "force" behind American Pie, brothers Paul and Chris Weitz, have only Executive Producer credits, indicating a low level of involvement. It's hard to say whether that has anything to do with how discouraging the sequel is. The screenwriter, Adam Herz, is the same for both installments, although this latest script was written on auto-pilot. The director is J.B. Rogers, who was the first assistant director for American Pie. This is his second feature; his debut was the hideously bad Say It Isn't So. Considering the quality of that outing, even the disappointment that is American Pie 2 represents a step in the right direction.

Virtually everyone from the first movie is back for the return engagement, although some of the pretty faces, such as those belonging to Tara Reid's Vicky and Shannon Elizabeth's Nadia, aren't around much (and have no real reason to be present at all). In fact, of all the women from American Pie, only one has significant screen time - Alyson Hannigan, who plays band camp babe Michelle. Of course, all the guys are on hand, including lead dork Jim (Jason Biggs); his sensitive big-guy friend, Oz (Chris Klein); his normal buddy, Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas); and his obsessed-with-an-older-woman pal, Paul (Eddie Kaye Thomas). Then there's Stifler (Seann William Scott), who has a larger role here because of the actor's popularity spurt in the last two years.

The events of American Pie 2 transpire a year after those related in its predecessor. Although the principals have all gone off to college, not much has changed (although Kevin and Vicky are no longer together). Oz and Heather (Mena Suvari) are still an item. Jim remains a model of sexual insecurity and inexperience. And Stifler is just as rude, crude, and lewd as ever. Together, Jim, Kevin, Oz, Paul, and Stifler rent a beach house for the summer, and that's where the various misadventures of American Pie 2 take place, including a romance between Jim and Michelle. Unlike American Pie, which actually had a story, this picture can boast little more than a skeletal plot that serves as the device by which a series of sketches can be presented.

There is a lot of forced humor in American Pie 2 - scenes that have been included simply because there's that expectation of "shocking" raunchiness. So we are given the dubious honor of observing a golden shower, a sequence in which a character mistakenly uses quick-drying glue as a masturbation aid, and a segment with some same-sex activity. Admittedly, the material generates as many laughs as it does groans, but the breezy freshness that surrounded American Pie has been replaced by a sense of obligatory crudeness. We chortled our way through the first film because it pushed the envelope in a way that was often funny and occasionally hilarious; American Pie 2 calculatedly attempts to replicate the things that made the original successful, and fails. Then there's the matter of character development. American Pie had some - we cared about Jim and his friends. This time, they're just pawns to a stale plot and punch lines to lame jokes.

Although the movies are entirely different, watching American Pie 2 offers a similar experience to that of sitting through Scary Movie 2. You can see all the seams in the movie, and sense how frantic the filmmakers were to replicate their previous success. But, when a motion picture is the result of a financial impulse, not a creative one, this is often the unfortunate result.

American Pie 2 (United States, 2001)

Run Time: 1:44
U.S. Release Date: 2001-08-10
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Content, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1