The one ingredient that I despised the most out of 1999's "American Pie" (IMDb listing) was the willingness it had to hide behind a declaration of reverence to the John Hughes films of the 1980s that are held in (and rightfully so) such high esteem today. "American Pie" also tried to shoehorn serious drama among all the pie-humping and it made the fatal mistake of taking itself too seriously in the end. I didn't find the movie funny and I certainly did not find it profound. "American Pie 2"in its rush to the cinemasuses its head this time around. Ditching the embarrassing sentimentality, this loose and comfortable sequel is played entirely for laughs. And God bless them. The production has made a sequel ten times better than the original.
The first year of college is over for Jim (Jason Biggs), Oz (Chris Klein), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas). Reuniting back in Great Falls to trade sexual war stories, the quartet finds themselves having to deal with the women (Tara Reid, Alyson Hannigan, Mena Suvari, and Shannon Elizabeth) that they left behind. Determined to make the most out of the summer, the boysalong with revolting but rich friend Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott)decide to rent a beach house to sort out their confused lives. Running into lesbians, Krazy Glue, band camp, Jim's Dad (the invaluable Eugene Levy), Stifler's Mom (Jennifer Coolidge), and parties galore, the four young men learn valuable life lessons along with all the wacky mishaps they encounter.
Taking over for departing directors Paul and Chris Weitz, Farrelly brother co-conspirator J.B. Rogers assumes the helm of "American Pie 2." In working with the Farrellys for all this time, Rogers knows the value of a good joke. Though Rogers somewhat failed to showcase any directing aptitude in his debut "Say It Isn't So", his flat style fits in perfectly with this franchise. Dull looking and rather hastily assembled, Rogers at least understands what this sequel needs, and that is more laughs.
Rogers keeps "American Pie 2" on a pretty good balancing act between the shock comedy that the audience expects and the true laughs that he squeezes out of his huge cast. The anticipated outrageous set pieces, involving Jim gluing himself to his genitals, or Jim'ss adventures at Michelle's (Hannigan) band camp, should please fans who adored the rather outlandish (and intricate) attempts at big laughs that littered "American Pie." My pleasures with "American Pie 2" came mostly from the situations in between the gross-out laughs. Fun stuff such as Finch's tantra studies, Oz's attempts at phone sex, and of course, just about every little scene involving the incorrigible Stifler.
Steve Stifler, a small supporting role in "American Pie," has been upgraded to a leading character for the sequeland the film is all the better because of it. Filthy, misogynistic, maybe even a little homophobic, Stifler is a abhorrent character brought vividly to life with crack timing by Sean William Scott. Getting the lion's share of the laughs with his broad machismo and gloriously filthy mouth, Scott and screenwriter Adam Herz make a very smart choice and never play Stifler as an idiot. He's just a little dim and uncontrollably determined. The character impregnates "American Pie 2" with the bawdy vibe the rest of the film is so desperate to master. The best decision "American Pie 2" made was to give Stifler more to do this time around.
The entire cast of "American Pie 2" has done quite a bit of growing up since the original. Once terribly amateurish, the cast is now beginning to show the foundations of some real acting talent. With the exception of the still thick-headed Chris Klein, the cast comes ready to have fun and to probe their characters a little deeper. Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan show the most growth of the cast as Jim and Michelle explore a tender relationship, giving both actors a chance to be both comical and sweet. On the other end, Tara Reid and Thomas Ian Nicholas suffer the most from the overflowing cauldron of characters. Either severely cut down, or just not a priority to Herz, the two actors share the picture's most honest relationship situation (as two former lovers trying to remain friends), yet the film just isn't interested in them. It leaves the two with minimal screen time. The emphasis is placed squarely on comedy for the sequel, and I am so very glad for that. I'm willing to forgive a little shortchanging in the character development department if it means I get to actually laugh this time around.
I am as surprised as anybody that "American Pie 2" works so well. I disliked the first film and was very depressed over the thought of going back for second helpings. Yet, by just diving for laughs, "American Pie 2" is a success and remarkably makes me hope for a third installment.
Filmfodder Grade: B-