NOW PLAYING: American Pie 2

Posted: Monday, August 13, 2001

The creative geniuses behind American Pie 2 have a singular goal in mind: the all-American pursuit of an easy buck. That is, at least, how it felt to this moviegoer. It is reminiscent of the beach party movies of the sixties: the formula worked, so let's rework it into a thousand sequels. Even the speed at which it was released screams "quickie." Wasn't it just last month that we were watching the first American Pie?

That said, Pie 2 isn't all that bad. There are a lot of funny moments, but too few that push the envelope the way the first movie did. There are all the requisite jokes about Stifler's Mom, and about how inexperienced Jim is. (I use only their first names because I assume, as does the ad campaign, that you are all intimately familiar with the characters and their quirks.) The story goes like this: Jim, Oz, Kevin, Finch, and Stifler are all back from their first year at college. Remarkably, the entire cast split their attendance between only two schools. The girls are all back too, and they spend most of the film taking personal inventory on how much they've either grown or not grown, how much sex they've had or not had, and how well their friendships have held up over the preceding year. When life starts to get stagnant, (a week into the summer) the boys decide to rent a house on Lake Michigan and try to relive their glory days. And so starts the usual fun. Who's going to have sex with who, who's going to have it the most, who can have it the longest, blah, blah, blah. The problem is that there is no naughtiness to any of this. It all feels so wholesome, because the characters are always looking to the moral, the message. There's a reason why Stifler is consistently the funniest part of the movie. He is the only character that doesn't have to be redeemed. He is allowed to revel in his sexual callowness. But, "Sex isn't everything," this movie seems to shout. My question is, why else did the movie get made? It's a sex-farce trying to be everything but.

Some of the gags come off great, like when Jim actually goes to the infamous "band camp" and plays an off-kilter trombone solo, or when Stifler has to reexamine his sexuality in order to make it with a couple of girls next door. Unfortunately, most of the jokes are just a rehash of the first movie. What bizarre, yet incredibly embarrassing sexual mishap can happen to Jim? Will Vickie and Kevin solve their intimacy issues? I'm not sure anyone really cares.

One major problem with both this film and its predecessor is that they take themselves too seriously. This is supposed to be a piece of teen soft-core. This is Porky's for the new millennium, but the filmmakers are so encumbered by the PC sensibilities pervading the new-world atmosphere that they can't stand to just let fly. Everything has a message. Everything has a specific point. Kevin finds out you can "just be friends." Jim finds out that a band-geek is better than a super-model. Oz is able to stay faithful and still be happy. This movie wants to please the Lieberman coalition while selling to hormone crazed high-schoolers, and it's a bad match.

American Pie 2 is enjoyable, as long as you don't expect much. Really, the first movie was no better, but it was a surprise. No one expected to see a guy having sex with a pastry, so it took people off-guard. Both films want people to think they are much dirtier than they are. They should actually get away with a PG-13 rating, if it were not for the entirely gratuitous and unnecessary nudity scenes. I don't begrudge them the nudity, but at least be honest with the audience about what your movie is about. If you want to make an R-rated sex-farce, then do it. If you want to make a PG-13 movie about the second coming of age of a group of over-introspective post-high schoolers, then do that. But when you make one and sell the other, you become the worst thing in both movies, a tease that doesn't deliver. Grade: C

American Pie 2 is rated R for language, sexual situations, and brief nudity.

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