WFTB Score: 6/20
The plot: One year on, the gang of Jim, Finch, Oz and Kevin escape from their dull college holidays by renting a beach house, the only handicap being that – to pay the rent – Stifler comes along too. Each has their plans to make the summer special, culminating in a sizzling, sexy beach party; however, Jim finds his designs for sexual conquest, or at the very least adequacy, come with a dilemma attached.
Call me simple, but I really liked American Pie. Yes, it was crass, vulgar and sometimes indifferently acted; it was also very funny, and its ultimate message was surprisingly responsible. What I, and I guess many of the hordes that watched the movie back in 1999, never expected was that it had enough substance to spawn a sequel, let alone a mini-industry of its own. Such, alas, are the ways of the Hollywood machine.
Anyway, the gang are all present and correct for American Pie 2, another year older and another year hornier, though pretty much stuck where they were when we last saw them. Jim (Jason Biggs) is still being sexually humiliated by his Dad (Eugene Levy), not helping his pre-occupation that he’s useless at the act; Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is still hung up on Vicky (Tara Reid), even though they’ve been split up for ages; Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) still dreams of Stifler’s Mom (Jennifer Coolidge) and is practising tantric meditation in preparation for their next meeting; Oz (Chris Klein) is still going steady with Heather (Mena Suvari), though her eurotrip means that their intimacy has to be conducted long-distance, over the phone; and Stifler (Seann William Scott) is still the ultimate party dude, with the pursuit of sex his only goal in life. To get them out of their slump, Kevin takes his brother’s advice and hires a beach house, where the boys do building work (and more) for a pair of ‘potential lesbians’. They also vow to round off the summer with a party to end all parties, Jim given added incentive to become a Red Hot Lover by the promised return of Nadia (Elizabeth Shannon), keen on completing unfinished business. But how will he learn? He goes in search of Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) at Band Camp, who agrees to give him a hand (and more!). However, nothing ever goes quite to plan in Jim’s world and one night, while trying to, er, relax, he inadvertently glues himself to…himself.
A very simple, if harsh, summary of American Pie 2 would be that it’s just like American Pie except without the jokes. A more accurate summary would be that it has jokes, but the vast majority are either unfunny or are pale imitations of what happened first time around. The ‘lesbians’ scene isn’t funny, or sexy, goes on far too long and unsuccessfully recycles the broadcasting gag of American Pie. Thankfully, Jim’s unfortunate superglue episode is much better, demonstrating both Biggs’ skill for physical comedy and Eugene Levy’s facility for being awkward and warm at the same time. Levy gives much-needed heart to the film, which is almost entirely missing in the other characters. Though the writers are at least as much to blame as the actors, neither Thomas, Nicholas, Reid, Natasha Lyonne nor Chris Owen’s returning Shermanator make much of an impression on the film, whilst Klein and Suvari are given a hopeless nothing of a storyline and Coolidge and Shannon have little more than cameos. Worse still, for some reason Stifler gets a much bigger role this time; he’s allowed to shout his foul, male chauvinist mouth off beyond all tolerance and his repulsive little brother only doubles the agony.
On the plus side, there are all the bits featuring Alyson Hannigan. The sections at Band Camp feel like they come from a different film entirely (the Camp appears to be next door to the Beach House, Jim travels between them so quickly), and it’s a film which, while still scatological and wilfully outrageous, has something new to offer – Jim freestyling on the trombone is funny, a trumpet up the arse is funny, Michelle puzzling her way around ‘This one time…here’ is funny. More importantly, Hannigan gives weight and credibility to Jim’s daft plan to be trained up in readiness for Nadia; her face in the car after storming out of the house is, in the context of the piece, a masterclass of acting. Along with Levy, she gives this sequel the little bit of warm feeling it desperately needs, almost balancing out the Stiflers’ profound unpleasantness and the bland non-adventures of Kevin, Finch and so on.
Almost. Ultimately, though, American Pie 2 is a disappointingly lazy cash-in on the wild success of the first movie, and there’s practically no good reason to watch it when the original does everything so much better – and with much less Stifler. Taken in conjunction with its predecessor, and factoring in the sweetness of Michelle, this just about passes muster. But you wouldn’t want to take this slice of American Pie on its own merits, because they’re very slim pickings indeed.