Can’t have your ‘Pie’ and eat it two
|Starring:||Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Seann William Scott, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari, Shannon Elizabeth|
In Hollywood, everything is derivative, or so the saying goes, but if you need confirmation, look no further than American Pie 2. In some respects a much-anticipated sequel by younger audiences, it’s more an obvious exploitation of a smash hit seeking to capitalize on the formula of its predecessor rather than a truly necessary follow-up. And while that’s certainly no unfamiliar combination in contemporary cinema, it’s no breeding ground for success in a character-oriented teen comedy like this one.
For the second round, screenwriter Adam Herz has indeed reunited almost all of his characters from 1999’s American Pie, with a few notable exceptions. The fearsome foursome of Jim (Jason Biggs), Oz (Chris Klein), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) have all come back, and although they’ve been through a year of college since the first film, they’re still filled with the teenage male’s desire for — to put it bluntly — sex. And while they’ve all got obstacles to overcome (Jim, for instance, worries that he’s no good in bed, and Oz must cope with his girlfriend spending the summer abroad in a school program), they nevertheless plan to throw the party to end all parties and reaffirm their self-made commitments of sexual prowess.
In executing all of this, the smartest move made in pre-production was rounding up the host of usual suspects for this entertaining but completely arbitrary sequel. The first American Pie launched the careers of many of the cast members, including Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott (who plays the infamous partier Steve Stifler), but they’re probably best known for their starring roles from this teen comedy franchise. As the second edition proves, they’ve inhabit these characters quite nicely, and do wonders for what might otherwise have been a typically lame sequel script.
Which is indeed where the movie runs south (if indeed it does — it will be up to teen audiences to determine the amount of hokum in the rag for American Pie 2). Adam Herz may have concocted a great group of characters, but upon reexamination two years later, he and co-writer David Steinberg quickly discover that they’re nothing more than stereotypical husks called upon to perform in outrageous circumstances. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, because both the original Pie and its sequel are 100-minute conglomerations of outrageous circumstances, but in certain instances it becomes painfully obvious that the charm of many of the characters has run out.
For instance, Jim’s part-time love interest Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), the infamous band camp geek from the original film, had few lines in the original that went beyond the “This one time, at band camp,” intro — which was perfect for the purposes of the film. Here, though, Herz and Steinberg attempt to use her character more often, and while she served her purpose as a gimmick in the first film, here, she’s a bit stale.
Other characters come off the same way, and most of them female — which is probably because the movie focuses solely on our four heroes’ sexual conquests. In that regard, the focus is decidedly more raunchy this go-round, enough so that it’s worth it to mention that director J.B. Rogers served as assistant director on many of the Farrelly brothers’ films, and also helmed the knock-off gross-out comedy Say It Isn’t So!, again with Chris Klein. The Farrelly brothers’ touch is clearly more evident here than in the original, which was directed by Adam Herz’s erstwhile showbiz partner Paul Weitz.
The only other hangup that the film suffers from is the situational aspect — the film is essentially the same narrative from the first, exploiting many of the same gimmicks (Jim’s Internet sex-romp from the first is woefully similar to the CB lesbian sex broadcast from this issue), but transplanted a year later. And while the boys’ adventures might’ve been reasonably acceptable in the high school graduate context — four guys looking to have some fun in their last summer together before college — it’s a bit more outlandish in the summer after the freshman year of college. The film’s closing lines of dialogue even leave the back door open for additional sequels, which hopefully will never see the light of day — with each passing year in these characters’ lives, their escapades will become increasingly unrealistic.
But for the time being it’s still mildly plausible, and that being said, the cast and crew of American Pie 2 didn’t do too badly out of the gate. They managed to string together a sequel which is faithful enough to the original that it shouldn’t disappoint fans, while exhibiting an array of new (if derivative) material that should make this a fine companion piece to the original. While the pie itself only makes a brief, blink-and-you-missed-it appearance, there’s plenty of like stunts to be seen. And that might just be the biggest problem — they’re likestunts. If only they’d have been more original.