It's hard to believe ten years have passed since the first 'American Pie' film was released. A fact that makes for one of those startling "damn, I must be getting old" revelations. That the series has had two sequels and four direct-to-video spin-offs only adds to the feeling. Seven films in ten years, all because one man dared to go where no man had gone before...
The newest installment in the series, 'The Book of Love,' makes no attempt to stand out with a unique story or theme. It's a bit of a rehash of the first Pie film, only with no-name-stuck-in-a-rut actors replacing up-and-comers. The situations are identical, the premise the same, only now, as is the case with so many sequels, everything is pushed to the extreme, overblown, and ridiculous.
Three high school students (Bug Hall as Rob, Kevin H. Horton as Nathan, and Brandon Hardesty as Lube) are in for a different kind of education, as a freak accident uncovers (and partially damages) the legendary Book of Love, a sex manual handed down through the years, updated with new discoveries, techniques, and advice. Just one problem, each of our heroes has his own problem dealing with the opposite sex, and it seems their (now incomplete) new found bible only exacerbates their issues. Can they turn the tide, and get with the girls of their dreams, or will fate laugh in their faces as everyone else around them gets laid instead?
The tone is set from the opening scene, with a chunky peanut butter sandwich replacing the infamous apple pie, but with far more disastrous (and predictable) results. The scene isn't gross on its own, save for the way the sandwich is handled, which is sure to ruin appetites.
The acting is fairly subpar, with few actors truly becoming their characters. If anything, it feels as though they watched the original a few times, and were told to just "do what Jim would do." The results are pathetic. Stifler (John Patrick Jordan as yet another in the sex-wild Stifler clan) is easily the biggest offender, continually mimicking the body language and dialect of the original's Seann William Scott, but with no apparent sense of humor. He misses the point of the all too familiar character entirely!
I also have to wonder how such ordinary and pathetic guys landed at this high school, one where all of the girls seem to have tramp stamps and have undergone breast augmentation. It's like something out of the 'Transformers' sequel. The only girls who aren't ridiculously stacked are those playing the love interests (basically, the only developed characters).
Sure, there are some funny moments, such as the play on "secondary virginity," ,and yes, the ante is upped, and the situations get outrageous and borderline unbelievable in an attempt to force laughter, but really who cares? No one in the cast, that's for sure! Even the extras can't seem to seemed to be coaxed into applauding their basketball team's last second win.
Sadly, the 'American Pie' name and story can't seem to be left alone, as suitor after suitor prove themselves to be the enemy. For a direct-to-video affair, 'The Book of Love' isn't the worst thing out there, but that doesn't excuse its inability (or blatant refusal) to bring something new to the table.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'American Pie Presents The Book of Love' comes to Blu-ray on a BD50 disc in a standard case (with a lightly embossed slipcover). There are numerous pre-main menu load screens (complete with status bars), but no forced trailers. These prolonged pauses are very annoying, as there's no pay off. Before the main menu, a screen will flash prompting the viewer to select the rated or unrated cut of the film.
With an AVC MPEG-4 1080p encode at 1.78:1 lighting the way, 'American Pie Presents The Book of Love' has an actual high score in one of our scoring categories (and no, it's not out of pity). In the opening scenes, I was prepped for the worst, due to some apparent digital noise popping up in the background, while the first act of the film sported some fairly hot skin tones, but the film settles down to provide a very natural and clean quality that is much desired for the format. The grain level is incredibly light, coupled with a very deep picture, creating a (light) three dimensional feel. Delineation is solid, while blacks and whites are both natural and clean, exactly the way they should be. Detail in clothing fabrics is strong, but facial features are lacking any real character. There are some juttery camera movements that are a bit off putting, but they are few and far between. A solid release, worthy of some level of (light) praise.
'American Pie: The Book of Love' is presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that failed to impress. Dialogue is prioritized properly, popping out over other sound elements, but any time a line is delivered with stress, the sound turns into a shrill mess. The fact that an entire scene is yelling makes for a very, very awkward listen in that regard. Music starts strong with a solid bass bump and rear presence, but dies down as the film goes on to a miserable bass yelp. Crowded areas are sometimes front heavy in their atmosphere, while other times nowhere near as loud in the surrounds as they appear to be. Movement is off, as is directionality, it's just awkward. For DTV fare, this release isn't that bad at all, but it leaves plenty to be desired.
'American Pie Presents The Book of Love' isn't a diamond in the rough, rough DTV terrain, but it's far from the worst sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel out there, either. The Blu-ray release of 'Book of Love' has respectable audio and video, and a pile of extras that, at times, outshine the film they're for. This isn't one to avoid, but a blind buy is risky to say the least. Rent it.