REVIEW: American Pie 2 [2001]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: R | Runtime: 108 minutes | Release Date: August 10th, 2001 (USA)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director(s): J.B. Rogers
Writer(s): Adam Herz / Adam Herz and Daniel H. Steinberg (story)

“That’s a lot of flutes”

Right when you thought Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) learned his lesson about manipulating the lives of his friends to compensate for his own insecurities, he does it again. Scared to go to college before becoming a man, American Pie followed his misguided pact to ensure his best friends would lose their virginity before graduation. One year later, American Pie 2 brings the whole gang back for a summer break meant to show their success in taking ‘the next step’ having since gotten sex out of the way. Unsure about the direction their lives are heading, however, Kevin asks his older brother for advice once more and enlists the boys to rent a beach house and relive the glory days of not so long ago. It’s a quest to reinstate their status as Great Falls kings with a giant end of season party full of lewd antics that will make the original’s seem like child’s play.

You can’t really fault writer Adam Herz for acknowledging his formula’s success and wanting to repeat it for equal rewards. The sequel to his coming of age comedy therefore finds itself hitting many of the same beats in the same order but with the stakes raised to the extreme. Commencing with another example of Jim Levenstein’s (Jason Biggs) horrible luck, Mom (Molly Cheek) and Dad (Eugene Levy) arrive at his dorm room to find him in sexual congress with a young co-ed. Whether this is a better result on the shame scale from the first or not, his embarrassment only becomes more devastating when Levy’s loss of private space deems sitting on the bed while the guilty pair cower under the sheets a sound decision. It’s just the first of many compromising positions Jim finds himself in as he looks to increase his stature between the sheets and ready for Nadia’s (Shannon Elizabeth) imminent return.

The main differences between the two films is that the girls become even less important to the overall plot and Seann William Scott‘s iconic Stifler becomes a full-fledged part of the group. Needing a fifth source of income to pay for the beach home, Kevin has no choice but to invite the obnoxious brute along despite the hard feelings resulting from what occurred between his mother (Jennifer Coolidge) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) at the end of the original movie. Egos must be held in check and the boys band together to make their abode a place where hot girls can come to relax, drink, and relieve themselves from any stress they may possess. Oz (Chris Klein) is the only one with a sound head on his shoulders—a relationship with Heather (Mena Suvari) still intact while she studies abroad—but his lack of drive doesn’t prevent the rest from letting their libidos take control.

Nicholas’ Kevin becomes embroiled in the most sentimentally bland storyline like before, this time attempting to rekindle the fire with Vicky (Tara Reid) instead of stoking it. Issues of friendship after relationship come up, but it’s all just too schmaltzy and uninteresting when compared to the escapades of the trio on the prowl. Besides becoming privy to Finch’s Tantric journey, Jim’s kissing and groping lessons from band geek Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), and Stifler’s ability to be dumber than dumb, the three also find themselves pushing their sexual exploration thresholds with each other so their sexy and game lesbian bosses will do the same. It’s a brilliant scene of physical comedy and really lets Scott shine after being the butt of another bodily fluid consumption gag at the start. His Stifler really takes control of the film and refuses to let up for the duration.

The biggest draw, however, ends up being our introduction to the world of Band Camp at Tall Oaks. Run like a boot camp for nerds, Jim infiltrates the frontlines to ask for Michelle’s help in readying him for his exchange student love’s trip back. Posing as a mentally challenged trombone player and constantly slipping from George Wyner‘s Camp Director’s clutches, the prom dates discover a friendship burgeoning that will eventually lead to the inevitable realization of who Jim was truly meant to be. Hannigan is a blast speaking crassly in her sweet, innocent cadence and hilariously dominant sexually when the two must fake a relationship to make Nadia jealous. She is the only female role worth mentioning this time around as Reid, Suvari, and Natasha Lyonne end up with about twenty minutes of total screen time between them.

American Pie 2‘s likeability therefore hinges on its audience’s enjoyment of the sex-crazed quintet running around with their penises in the lead. Gags such as a lubricant/crazy glue switcheroo and a chase scene with a giant dildo as baton bring the big laughs and somehow let the carbon copy plot structure succeed despite itself. John Cho and Casey Affleck return to their bit parts; Adam Brody fills their in-hindsight slot of surprise casting; Thomas’ enlightened schtick unfortunately becomes grating by the end; and Klein and Nicholas’ lovesick sensitive types fade into the background. It becomes Biggs’ time to shine as his evolution takes control of the film’s direction with help from his memorable rapport with Levy.

And while the story of Jim takes our interest away from the others, it’s Seann William Scott who makes himself a star on the fringe. Always there to spout some disgusting morsel of lecherous wile, he may in fact be at his best when subduing baby brother Eli Marienthal from scaring the girls away and ruining the ‘Stiffmeister’ name. His reactions are priceless and the lengths he’ll go for a joke are only challenged by the ever-demoralizing actions of Biggs. Stifler may be the character we should abhor for his womanizing ways, but in a series that pretty much makes all females into objects to love, pine over, or disrespect, he is in fact the hero of the tale. He really finds himself becoming the abrasive glue that holds the work’s sentimentality and gross-out comedy together.

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