American Pie 2 (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
I liked American Pie 2 more than any other youth-oriented comedy I've seen since its predecessor. I can't even think of a very good competitor. It sure beats the piss out of "Dude, Where's My Car", "Tomcats", and "Saving Silverman".
I'm not going to deal in depth with the question of whether it is as good as the original. Get serious, will you? The original is a genre classic, the best coming of age sex comedy of its generation, maybe the best since Animal House, deftly mixing sentiment, treasured memories, sex, and hilarity. The sequel could not and does not equal it.
(NOTE: the sequel is currently rated HIGHER at IMDB!)
And I'm not going to be able to say if I would have liked this movie if I hadn't seen the first one, because I don't know. I did see the original, and liked it a lot, and that biased me. Perhaps if you didn't see the original, you'll wonder why some of these characters are in the movie at all, because they aren't developed. But that actually makes some sense in context. They shoved the unfunny characters to the back of the bus, but they couldn't just eliminate them. Sure, if this movie wasn't a sequel, they would have written those characters out of the script. But it was a sequel, so they tried to provide some continuity with the original, which was a mega-hit with a built-in following.
Except for his need to maintain unimportant characters, the screenwriter had only one other major script weakness - he didn't come up with a solid (non-financial) reason for the film to exist.
In the first film, the kids make a support pact at the beginning of senior year not to graduate high school as virgins. They are four very different people, but all "nice" guys, and they all have to face the questions of virginity and adulthood in their own ways. This gave the film a driving force, and a chance for the audience members to meditate on their own coming-of-age periods, thus allowing the movie to seek the underlying emotional truth and humanity beneath the sex gags.
For the second film - where do you go from there? They come back after a year of college. I guess there are some lessons to be learned in that first summer after being away. I think many people want to go back home and find things unchanged, while others have moved on, grown up or thought they have, formed new friends, and don't want to jump back into their old high school cliques with their old high school chums. I guess the film could have used that conflict as the dramatic shell. It did in a way, because the intellectual Finch was moving on, leaving his friends behind in many ways, experimenting with life. But that was just minor, throwaway material in the film. Mostly the friends just rented a lake house and screamed "par-tay". Not much to hang a movie on.
The screenwriter did make some good choices. The Oz character wasn't funny to begin with, and he was in a monogamous relationship with his girl, so he was essentially written out of the script except to provide facial reactions. The Kevin character wasn't ever funny or interesting, and the screenwriter cut him back to some sentimental moments trying to reconcile to the fact that his girlfriend is no longer his girlfriend. (Call me nasty, but I would have turned this into humor, not pathos.) Cutting those guys down to nothing was a good plan, as was the decision to cut back on the unfunny girls (Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, and Shannon Elizabeth). Too bad they had to cut Shannon's nudity as well.
I regretted that they cut back on Finch's humorous side, however. In the first film, Finch was spreading his sexual myth, the others were plotting its undoing with the laxative trick, and he had the funniest line in the movie in his moment of passion with a friend's mother ("Oh, Stifler's mom"). In the sequel, they mostly made him a mopey twerp pining away for Stifler's mom, with not much other purpose. Unlike the other two guys who got cut back, Finch was a funny character, and could have contributed more.
That's a quibble, however, because the screenwriter correctly identified that he had some other funny characters, and he expanded their roles. The second film is basically "the Jim and Stifler show". It might have been called, "dude, where's my chicks". The gross Stifler, originally a minor player who was in the first film mostly to break moments of tension, becomes one of the stars in this one. Jim and Jim's dad play prominent roles. And the geeky band chick is actually seen in her native habitat, i.e. band camp.
There was a lot of thematic repetition from the first film, but they did come up with some funny new set pieces, some of them hilarious, all of them pretty good.
|Some other scenes were
hopelessly sentimentalized (everything involving Klein and Suvari,
e.g.), or just padding (Finch's study of Eastern thought). Those
moments were embarrassing, but they were generally short and
well-intentioned, much like advice from Jim's dad.
The first film reached beyond the genre, played a lot of nostalgic chords, and reminded many people of treasured memories of their own. If the second film doesn't quite reach that classic level, well, so what? On balance, I ask you this. Do you like this kind of movie? If so, my general comment is that it is an excellent genre film, better than any others in recent memory. It didn't get to my heart as deeply as the first one, and it didn't get me as involved with the characters, but it did make me laugh almost as much.
Comments from Mick Locke:
Having read your American Pie 2 review, I finally rented and watched American Pie. Quite cute in portions. My favorite woman was that tough cookie with the curly hair, Jessica. She was the main character in a good obscure film, The Slums of Beverly Hills. Of course I salivated over the astounding breasts of Ms. Shannon Elizabeth Fabal, who has since, alas, put a "no nude" clause in recent contracts to try to get roles that show off her talent and not her body.' (This according to imdb.com.) Is that ridiculous or what? A capable actress will shine regardless of how in-our-face her naked glories are. How often has Kate Winslet signed a "no nude" clause? In general, my esteem for an actress goes up when she strips.
Jason Biggs was a hoot, a fun character. Most of the other male characters I didn't care for, too crass for my tastes. Like the goofball who had a hard time saying "I love you" to his girlfriend. What's the fucking problem, bro? This chick is gonna surrender her virginal treasures to you and you're not sure? Tell her you love her, dipshit! She's already given you a Lewinski, for Pete's sake!
I enjoyed the MILF, Stifler's Mom. She was sorta wanton and hot. You were right about that kid's pool table line, the vocative Stifler's Mom, was the funniest one in the flick. Best of all I enjoyed Jim's Dad, the utterly unflappable father. After the pie incident, he says something like, Actually, when I was your age, I did quite a lot of that. But never with baked goods. Great line.
Mostly I rented it to hunt down the scenes of Allyson Hannigan, who plays Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I can see why some of these actors prefer TV. As Willow, Hannigan gets a slew more lines than her brief but juicy role in AP. My wife bought the first two seasons of Buffy on DVD, and they're pretty good junky viewing. Good ensemble cast, except for that mopey boyfriend, Angel. I'm amazed he spun off into his own series.
I wonder what kind of financial deal Joss Weadon (spelling?) has? He's the Gene Roddenberry of the Buffy industry. I read in the New York Times Magazine recently that if a series holds on even at the bottom of the ratings for just four seasons (88 episodes), it'll go into franchise and the dough'll roll in forever. If you have a successful teen-oriented series that goes on into a sixth season with a spin-off series, that must mean megabucks. And if ol' Joss retains a big piece of that pie, he da man!
When Joseph Heller passed on, I read a poignant "Life In Hell" tribute by Matt Groening. Apparently, after the success of The Simpsons, Groening met Heller and tried to sincerely praise him for Catch 22. Heller kept ignoring his praise and said repeatedly, "Hey it must be great to have your pockets full of that TV money!" Groening felt sheepish that his praise was brushed aside. But Heller, too, had a point. Indeed it must be nice.
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