American Pie 2 (2001)
by Steve Habrat
While American Pie is beginning to show its crow’s feet, 2001’s American Pie 2 hasn’t aged nearly as bad as the 1999 original. It may be blasphemous to say but I have always found American Pie 2 to be slightly better than the original film, both in story and laughs. Maybe it is the fact that the film is a nonstop party, a beer stained snapshot of these character’s glory days. In the end, I think I like American Pie 2 better because it shows us how these characters have evolved (or stayed the same) and it tackles how people change between high school and college. You are always eager to get back after your first year without parental supervision and trade war stories with your high school pals. Much like the original, the underlying content has found staying power, especially with a younger audience, but I too enjoy watching American Pie 2 and being reminded about the first summer back from pouring over books, cramming for exams, and constant parties. It made me reminisce about a time when I didn’t have a care in the world. American Pie 2 smartly bottles up that electric enthusiasm to see how those who were close to you have changed for the better or the worse.
American Pie 2 picks up with the old gang, showing us their last few days of their freshman year of college. The gang heads home to their hometown of East Great Falls, eager to start sharing their new experiences with one another, most of these experiences having to do with sex. Jim (Played by Jason Biggs), Oz (Played by Chris Klein), Kevin (Played by Thomas Ian Nicholas), and Finch (Played by Eddie Kaye Thomas) head to their old haunts and look forward to summer sipping beers at party guy Steve Stifler’s (Played by Seann William Scott) house. At Stifler’s party, they bump into their old female chums from their high school days, Vicky (Played by Tara Reid) and Jessica (Played by Natasha Lyonne). After a few embellished stories about college, the cops break up Stifler’s party, leaving the gang with no other place to get drunk over the summer. The gang soon finds themselves traveling to Grand Harbor, Michigan to shack up in a beach house for the summer. Jim also learns that foreign exchange student Nadia (Played by Shannon Elizabeth) will be returning home at the end of summer and she is very eager to spark up an old romance with him, leaving Jim turning to the only person he has ever been intimate with, band geek Michelle (Played by Alyson Hannigan), to help him tweak his sexual sills.
The major handicap of American Pie was the shaky acting from the young leads, mostly from the awful Chris Klein, who has slightly improved between the original and the sequel. Klein still lacks chemistry with his goody-goody girlfriend Heather (Played by Mena Suvari) and it really wounds the film. Suvari certainly tries to coax some out of him, but he is a lost cause. Seann William Scott’s Stifler gets a bit more room to shine in the second helping of Pie, checking in a more obnoxious performance than he did in the first time around. While he remained largely on the outside when the gang was simply trying to loose their virginity, he is part of their inner circle here and for those who hated him the first time, well, you’re going to loathe this beach house bonanza. Biggs gets even better, finding himself in more gauche situations than he did the first time around, even worse because he found out he was horrible at sex and now he has lost the little confidence he once possesed. His chemistry with Hannigan’s Michelle, which wasn’t fully developed the first time, is front and center here. They have some truly wonderful exchanges as she helps shape Jim into an irresistible stud for the gorgeous Nadia. Also a standout is the returning Eugene Levy as Jim’s unassuming father, who tries to give him words of wisdom every time he embarrasses himself.
American Pie 2 fairs better from improved direction and writing, which allows the cast to be a bit more believable. Screenwriter Adam Herz does up at the ante on the sex gags that are sprinkled throughout and he does cook up a few tasty sequences. One scene involving the boys and two girls they believe are lesbians is pretty sharp and full of surprises. It mirrors the Internet broadcast sequence in the original. Another scene involving Jim trying to watch porn and mistaking superglue for lubricant is another winner. Biggs helps the scene by wearing aghast facial expressions, especially when his situation goes from horrible to dire. It is also a bit obvious that American Pie 2 has a bit of a larger budget than the original film, having a much more polished look to it. It seems like the production company didn’t gamble much on the original film, especially since the original is riddled with so many mistakes (the tainted beer cup, the opening sequence that is supposedly taking place at night when we can clearly see sun shining through the windows).
American Pie 2 isn’t any deeper than the original, actually possessing less depth than the original did. The film is more concerned with extended party sequences, trying to squeeze in as much nudity as it possible can, and devising ways to put Shannon Elizabeth in a bikini. There aren’t even any missed opportunities for saying something profound. In a way, this may be why I like the film a bit more than the original. It doesn’t try to be anything else than a party movie that just wants to get laid. Sure it gets the feeling of meeting up with your old friends correct, an aspect that completely saves the film from being irrelevant and disposable. The real saving grace is that the actors are much more comfortable in their character’s skins, making them feel much more real than they did when they were just lowly high school students. It’s the same old debauchery, just a little bit wiser, more scantily clad girls, and with a higher alcohol tolerance.
American Pie 2 is now available on DVD.
American Pie (1999)
by Steve Habrat
It has been years since I have visited Jim, Stifler, Oz, Kevin, Finch, Nadia, Jessica, Heather, Vicky, Jim’s Dad, and the rest of the American Pie gang. After digging out my copy of the DVD and re-watching the film, the first thing that struck me about it was how poorly it has aged since its release. The film reeks of the late 90s, all plaid shirts, baggy jeans, and pop punk. Even the picture itself looks faded and crude by today’s standard but maybe I am getting used to watching crystal clear Blu-ray. What hasn’t aged, however, is the content of American Pie, which is all about getting laid and partying with your friends. American Pie packs a plot that will continue to resonate with high school and college kids for years to come, an aspect that solidifies its place on the list of comedy classsics. Better than a good majority of teen comedies that chug beer in the name of all that is crass, American Pie is still a heartwarming film about living it up with your friends and making memories that will last a lifetime.
The plot of American Pie is pretty simple. Four high school friends, Jim (Played by Jason Biggs), Oz (Played by Chris Klein), Kevin (Played by Thomas Ian Nicholas), and Finch (Played by Eddie Kaye Thomas) vow to all loose their virginity by prom night. They are struck with fear that they will all go off to college as virgins and they do everything in their power to make sure that won’t happen. The boys set their sights on a handful of girls including foreign exchange student Nadia (Played by Shannon Elizabeth), affectionate Vicky (Played by Tara Reid), cool girl Jessica (Played by Natasha Lyonne), choir chick Heather (Played by Mena Suvari), and band geek Michelle (Played by Alyson Hannigan). Naturally, the boys find themselves in all sorts of awkward situations, mostly Jim, who is always experimenting with different ways to pleasure himself, and every time getting caught by his parents or embarrassing himself in front of the entire school. They are also always hanging out with the vulgar Steve Stifler (Played by Seann William Scott) and finding themselves the butt of his obnoxious jokes.
It is strange to look back at American Pie, which packed a supposedly up-and-coming cast, some that never really broke out into any other roles. A good majority of the acting, mostly from Chris Klein, is downright cringe inducing now. It is no shocker that he never really became an A-list actor or a household name, as every line of dialogue he speaks is forced and embellished. The two who really do standout are Seann William Scott’s Stifler, who delivers a handful of funnies and the perfectly awkward Biggs as Jim. American Pie is carried on the shoulders of Jim’s Dad (Played by Eugene Levy) always catching him in some off-the-wall situation that is beyond embarrassing, scenes that will leave you gasping and your jaw slamming against the floor. You’ll never forget the sequence where Jim makes love to an apple pie in the film’s most iconic sequence. His father’s baffled reaction is simply, “We’ll just tell your mother that…we ate it all.” You’ll be in tears if you’ve never seen the scene.
It does still shock me how much American Pie has aged in thirteen years. Many of the skinny jean viewers of today may laugh at the film’s overall look and the corny pop punk soundtrack of yesterday. I can hear them squealing behind their smartphones, tweeting “wtf were they thinking in the 90s! GAG!” Sorry kids, there is no Justin Bieber and Wiz Khalifa anywhere in this film. Yet as I said, there is still quite a bit to relate to in this film and that is what extends its reach and ups the letter grade here. Believe me when I say that you’ll find yourself smiling over the camaraderie found in American Pie, both on the male and female side. The film’s raunchy humor can certainly match the naughty humor of today’s raunch romps, matching Judd Apatow’s cinematic offerings that are so popular. I’d also bet that the American Pie kids can party harder than the Wolf Pack from The Hangover. I dare any scene in The Hangover to go up against the opening sequence of American Pie where Jim watches porn when his mother bursts into the room. Looking back, it is easy to see that American Pie has often been imitated (Road Trip, Van Wilder, Tomcats, and any direct to video sequel) but could never truly be duplicated, this film featuring some truly inspired comedic situations.
American Pie gets far on its boys will be boys premise and the situations are mostly hysterically funny. The film literally embraces toilet humor in one scene involving a character’s crippling fear of taking a number two at school. American Pie ultimately has a touching interior that outshines a lot of the dated aspects of the film. It doesn’t shy away from the female perspective of sex, which is centered on true love and sensitivity in opposition to the boy’s hornball desperation. It is a shame there wasn’t more depth to American Pie outside of the idea of desperately trying to have one last hurrah with your high school chums. The film does have a few opportunities to explore high school cliques, but it goes no further than the band geeks having cool guy Stifler refuse them entry into a raging party, never really elaborating further. It also had a brief chance to tackle peer pressure but that too falls by the wayside. Oh well, at least everyone basically gets along in the world of American Pie and no one can argue with that in these cynical times. Even if some of the sequences have become creaky over the years, jokes have lost some of their zing, and some of the acting is unforgivably amateur, it was still nice to revisit the gang of American Pie and have a beer or three and maybe a few shots.
American Pie is now available on DVD.