After the surprise success of ‘American Pie,’ which made back its cost over twenty times globally, it should have been a surprise to no one that a second film would be made, with the entire cast returning for more zany sex antics. Heck, Kevin predicts their return at the end of the original, when he toasts to the “next step” with his recently debauched compatriots. Despite the theme of the first film (losing one’s virginity) being a no-go for the sequel, for obvious reasons, the plot of the film still works, as we follow up on the boys a year later, as they begin their first summer after two semesters of college, mostly apart from one another. It’s a reunion, though not every bit will be as happy as the characters thought it would be.
For a few months, Jim, Oz, Stifler, Finch, and Kevin take residence at a nearby beach house, with plans of throwing a massive end of summer blowout. The only problem is, these guys are still trying to figure out who they are, and what they want, having not taken any steps towards adulthood in their time at college. Jim is still the sexually curious buffoon whose misadventures lead to embarrassing situations every time he gets aroused, Oz is dealing with Heather (Mena Suvari) being in Europe on a semester abroad program, Kevin has fooled himself into thinking he can get back with his high school sweetheart Vicky (Tara Reid), and Finch is practicing the art of Tantra in anticipation of another rendezvous with Stifler’s mom. Stifler? His only interest is the same as usual: getting laid, though the conquest he’s eying may be out of his reach, as a pair of perceived lesbians have caught his eye. They may be a year older, but the guys haven’t changed one bit.
‘American Pie 2’ is a typical, stilted sequel. Yes, it made beaucoup bucks at the box office, besting the original, and it didn’t kill the series, as another film would come down the pipe soon after. The problem with this film is it cannot stand on its own two legs… quite possibly because it doesn’t have any legs to speak of. Throughout this second film, there are constant allusions to the first, made in passing, that make it impossible for a newcomer to entirely get the gist of what is going on. Character motivation is therefore puzzling, and character development is, for the most part, nonexistent. Worse still, this sequel attempts to one-up the original, and in doing so, ups the ante, only to fall flat on its face on a number of occasions.
We can’t blame the shortcomings of this film on the new director, as writer Adam Herz is still involved in this second take. Rather, lazy filmmaking is to blame. While repeated shots (like the one that tracks Stifler through his own home to introduce his party) are troubled, nothing comes close to the “bigger is better” mentality that ruins many a film. Why have Stifler accidentally drink someone’s…byproduct, when he can be bathed in it? Why have one nude girl, when you can have two? The setup makes less sense, the characters now are only there to show off their bodies, and there’s no emotional interest in the scene. Pie? No, we can’t have Jim do the same masturbatory mishaps, so why not give him embarrassing sexual encounters and a new way to obliterate his self esteem through self gratification? The bad ideas come at a rapid pace, but none, and I do mean none, come close to the horror that is having to hear Chris Klein attempt phone sex. It’s awful. One could probably replace any horror icon with Klein rubbing his junk and moaning into a phone and still get the desired results. Admit it: you’re pretty creeped out just thinking about it, aren’t you?
The biggest problem with ‘American Pie 2’ is simple: too many characters, too little for most of them to do. Klein’s Oz character is not needed, whatsoever, nor is Suvari’s Heather, as they drag down the pace and accomplish nothing. While they were excised for ‘American Wedding,’ the cut should have been made sooner. Natasha Lyonne’s supporting character again steals time, as does John Cho’s one note MILF chanter. While Shannon Elizabeth’s Nadia plays a crucial role in the first film, and acts as the catalyst for Jim’s arc in the second, she gets too much attention, as well. In fact, the main development of this second film is given so little screen time that its resolution feels more like a swerve than a natural development.
Why this film tries to parrot the first one so closely is a question, as ‘American Pie’ is not without its faults; its saving grace lies in the likability of the characters, not so much the scenarios they get into. Kevin remains a completely oblivious ass, only now he spouts exposition like he’s in a George Lucas film, proudly proclaiming “Hello summer!” like a buffoon, before telling his friends “we’re going to be the shit, everybody on the beach is going to know us!”, and it takes a while for us to find out that his lack of moving on in life is more troubling than we once thought. The music queues are terrible and don’t match the tone of the film, like an FM radio new-rock best-of compilation of 2001, while the setting feels far too much like California (where it was filmed), instead of Michigan. Stifler’s budding friendship with the guys, who disliked him in private, makes little sense, while his “cool guy” image is dashed as he screams and wails like a girl talking about a music video on TRL.
While it’s nice to finally visit band camp, ‘American Pie 2’ does little for the franchise. It’s a direct imitation of the original, and brings so little originality to the table that it’s hard to stomach. This film is only of note for a few reasons, possibly the wrong reasons, like how Tara Reid is beginning her “raccoon eyes” phase, in that period before she began her Frankenstein surgery scars phase. This film tries to be ‘American Pie’ 1.5 rather than a real second film, and for that, we get a film with limited replay value, and limited point.