American Pie 2
Screenplay : Adam Herz
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2001
Stars : Jason Biggs (Jim), Chris Klein (Oz), Thomas Ian Nicholas (Kevin), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Finch), Seann William Scott (Stifler), Alyson Hannigan (Michelle), Natasha Lyonne (Jessica), Tara Reid (Vicky), Mena Suvari (Heather), Shannon Elizabeth (Nadia), Eugene Levy (Jim's Dad)
Alas, no pastries are violated in any way in American Pie 2, but the movie does feature its own share of new sexual misadventures and embarrassing situations in which to entrap its now-college-age protagonists.
Returning screenwriter Adam Herz searches hard to reclaim that perfect balance between the sweet and the nasty, freely mixing boy-fantasy-turned-nightmare scenarios with genuinely effective emotional moments, but he doesn't quite nail it as he did the first time around. The crass jokes are a little bit too crassly done (perhaps owing to director J.B. Rogers, who worked as a first-assistant director on the original and helmed the disastrously unfunny Farrelly Brothers' comedy Say It Isn't So! earlier this year), and the balance between the girls and the boys is tilted too far in the male direction. While the female point-of-view offered an insightful and often humorous counterpart to the original's testosterone-driven narrative about guys wanting to lose their virginity by prom night, here the female characters are left almost complete on the sideline.
The entire cast from the original have returned, right down to the smallest supporting roles (remember the two stoners at the party looking at the framed picture of Stifler's mom and raving about how she's a MILF?—even they're back, as is the Shermanator). This gives the sequel the comfortable familiarity of a class reunion, which in many ways it is. The story takes place the summer after the gang's freshman year in college, where find themselves trapped in a kind of no man's land of wanting to move forward in their lives without completely letting go of their past high school existence.
In the opening sequence, the movie picks up right where the last one left off, with poor Jim (Jason Biggs), the most sexually floundering member of the group, right in the middle of consummating his second time in the sack when his eternally well-intentioned, but bumbling dad (Eugene Levy, in rare form once again) walks in on them and then tries to rectify the situation with a speech "for their edification" about how he's not embarrassed because this "represents human nature at its finest." Some things never change, and Jim's dad is one of them (he also has a great moment in which he accompanies Jim to the hospital after a humiliating experience involving crazy glue).
Jim returns to his Michigan hometown, where he plans to spend the summer with his best friends, Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), who is still pining away for his high-school girlfriend, Vicky (Tara Reid); Oz (Chris Klein), the football-jock-turned-sensitive-nice-guy who is still dating Heather (Mena Suvari), who will spend the summer in Europe; and the pseudo-pretentious Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), who is now consumed with Buddhist techniques used to heighten his sexual prowess. And, of course, there's Stifler, the obnoxious rich kid who has a much larger role this time around because the actors who plays him, Seann William Scott, has had one of the largest—if not the most distinguished—post-American Pie careers.
Most of the action in American Pie 2 takes place in a lakeside beach town where the boys go to spend their summer. Working during the day as house painters to earn cash, they plan a summer to end all summers, taking full advantage of their waning youth before too much responsibility and—God forbid—maturity sets in. Jim and Finch both spend the majority of the movie in heightened sexual anticipation, as Jim expects the return of Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth), the gorgeous foreign-exchange student with whom he had the disastrous Internet episode in the first movie, and Finch expects a visit from Stifler's mom, the middle-age "goddess" he hasn't managed to get over. Jim is particularly perplexed because he is constantly concerned with his performance. Thus, if the structuring anxiety of the first movie was the fear of never having sex, that anxiety has now developed into the fear of never being good at it.
To prepare for Nadia's arrival, Jim visits his prom date, the flute-playing band geek Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), at the infamous band camp we heard so much about in the first movie. Michelle, whose eager and dorky manner hide a voracious sexual appetite, agrees to "coach" Jim in all ways sexual, which leads to some of the movie's funniest and most endearing moments. In fact, Michelle turns out to be the most affecting character in the movie, as she easily transcends her character bounds to suggest a complex human being who stands out against some of the more cartoonish characters around her.
Director J.B. Rogers carefully and dutifully follows the pattern set by the original, carrying through with disgusting sight gags and then trying to balance the grotesquerie with recognizable human emotions. Thus, we get several scenes that mirror scenes from the first movie, including Stifler's being humiliating with a bodily fluid right when he's about to score at a party and a prolonged scene of sexual display that is broadcast over CB radios to everyone in town.
The latter sequence involves Jim, Stifler, and Finch caught sneaking around inside the house of two beautiful women who are supposedly lesbians. This leads to one of those only-in-the-movies moments, where the two women gamely agree to let the boys watch them engage in whatever as long as there is quid quo pro, which results in some awkward homosexual fumblings and a surprising revelation from Stifler about his willingness to "take one for the team." The scene is a little too long, but it's daring in the way it twists sexual expectations and turns the tables on the horny college guys. Like the original American Pie and Porky's (1981) long before it, the name of the game here is male sexual humiliation.
Still, when American Pie 2 works, it is largely because it remains true to a set of interesting characters, even if the plot doesn't allow them much room to grow. It's difficult to maintain an ensemble cast of this size and keep the characters consistently engaing, and when the movie stalls (such as the subplot about Kevin's pining for Vicky), it nearly crashes. Yet, there are just enough outwardly hilarious moments and genuinely effective scenes of human emotion to make this pie worth going for seconds—although thirds will likely result in indigestion.
Copyright © 2001 James Kendrick