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To the delight of teenagers and college students everywhere, American Pie 2 is now available on DVD. It will become a defining characteristic of the semester, watching AP2 with the bros and dreaming of summer vacation (possibly spring break). And I’d like to say that I’d be right with them, reliving the glory days vicariously through cinema, but American Pie 2 just doesn’t deliver. So let me instead say that if you already love this movie, then you will love the DVD release. It really is packed with about 10 hours worth of enjoyment, including just about everything you could cram onto a DVD: interviews, casting clips, bloopers, a documentary, games and lots more. You don’t even need to read this review; it’ll just upset you.

I’m a connoisseur of the B movie. That’s what AP2 aspires to be, a good time, laugh your balls off kind of film that you don’t spend time thinking about. It wants to be a film in the tradition of classics like Porky’s, Stripes, Meatballs, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Revenge of the Nerds, Carwash and the myriad others in the genre. Bill Murray is a kind of personal savior to me, and many of these movies, whether they feature Bill Murray or not, are well worth the couple hours. And most of these films are somewhat marred by crappy sequels.

I guess to a certain extent this review is unnecessary. Determine whether you should watch, or even own, the American Pie 2 Collector’s Edition Widescreen DVD based not on whether you loved American Pie or not, but whether you loved the sequels to any of the abovementioned classics. If you did love the hell out of AP1, then you’ll probably feel similarly about the second. But for everyone else, who saw the original as a nice showing for a genre that has mainly been relegated to cable channels for the past decade, this sequel is one to miss.

Okay, let’s start at the beginning. In a plot oddly reminiscent of the original, American Pie 2 concerns itself mainly with the adventures of Jim (Jason Biggs), who has returned, along with all of his buddies from the first movie, from college. The boys, not content to spend a mundane summer living at home, rent a beach house on the lakeshore for the summer. Early on, Jim learns that Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) will visit him at the end of summer, on the night of the huge bash, so they can fulfill the unfulfilled potential of the first movie. Jim, nervous of his inexperience and inability to perform, enlists the help of Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), the "flute girl" from the original film. Wacky hijinx ensue, and Jim ends up turning down Nadia in order to go with true love (the kind that involves thinking and feeling with the brain) and Michelle. Ooops, did I blow it for you? As if you couldn’t see that one coming.

For a movie so concerned with sex, there’s very little in it. Nudity is minimized to virtually PG-13 proportions, and there is even hardly any implied sex. The dialogue is about as funny as eavesdropping in a high school cafeteria, except for the lack of verite, which would give the cafeteria a definite edge. While the original had an "asshole-guy-drinking-sperm-without-realizing-it" scene; the sequel has a comparable, but much less shocking or funny, "asshole-guy-getting-pissed-on-without-realizing-it" sequence. Jim sticking his dick to his hand with crazy glue is no comparison to getting caught humping the pie. The popular advertisement scene, where Jim’s dad catches him in bed with a girl is possibly the best comedic achievement of the film, but it still isn't anywhere close to being obscene, and that's partly what I want in a film like this. I mean, Nerds put a whole sorority’s worth of breasts on display and included an actual bush shot. Where’s the guts in four, count ‘em – four nipples? This is not the transgressive laugh-riot I was prepared for.

So if you don’t watch this movie for the raunchiness, why see it? The moral thrust? Perhaps. Although the climax of AP2 isn’t nearly as emotionally riveting as the football pep rally scene in ROTN, and Jim isn’t as loveable as Rudy from Meatballs, the movie does end with the guy doing the exact thing he’s supposed to do – making an ass of himself to woo the "nerdy" girl, who was always the right one for him. This is a typical moral thrust for a movie like this, or any movie with any kind of romance in it these days, but the more shocking aspect of AP2 is how far it stays away from drug use. There’s not so much as a stoned out hippy or cracksmoking homeless guy in this film – it’s all clean, white, beautiful and mostly happy, young college students.

It might be the general lack of grittiness that makes American Pie 2 a bad movie. It’s hard to break the rules and be cool if you don’t actually break the rules. AP2 is naughty in the same way as the Abercrombie and Fitch catalog – controlled, styled, and highly fashionable. Bland. Or it might be the fact that all of the details are imported from the first film. Of course people who loved, and we’re talking about people who really loved the first movie, are going to dig AP2 – it’s the same joke. The people who regarded the original as groundbreakingly cool are the same people who don’t really want to work hard to get it – the same people who scratch their heads at films like Memento. Most of the jokes in AP2 either fully rely on, or are made more complete by, knowledge of the first film. And that’s not because you understand the characters any better. It’s because the jokes are recycled. The lines are recycled. The whole thing just reeks of the legendary "same ole, same ole".

And maybe that’s the worst part of American Pie 2. In some way it is accurate in representing the lives of many people who have been or are teenagers returning home from college. The whole summer is spent in hollow repetition of high school habits and timid experimentation with the "new thing" which eventually becomes adulthood. Sex is a paramount concern, but is somehow harder to find than in high school and you’re not any better at it. Drugs are nowhere to be found, so you spend the days hanging out with old friends who grew up just like you. One day blurs into the next, and eventually one summer blurs into another, and in the end it all just seems kind of crappy. At least these guys have a beach house.

Shawn Rider   (01/17/2002)


Ups: Amazing extras on DVD and tons of them; fans must purchase.

Downs: Not a very good movie.

Platform: DVD