So much can change in just one year…
After the surprise success of 'American Pie,' which made back its cost over twenty times globally, it should have been a surprise to no one that a second film would be made, with the entire cast returning for more zany sex antics. Heck, Kevin predicts their return at the end of the original, when he toasts to the "next step" with his recently debauched compatriots. Despite the theme of the first film (losing one's virginity) being a no-go for the sequel, for obvious reasons, the plot of the film still works, as we follow up on the boys a year later, as they begin their first summer after two semesters of college, mostly apart from one another. It's a reunion, though not every bit will be as happy as the characters thought it would be.
For a few months, Jim, Oz, Stifler, Finch, and Kevin take residence at a nearby beach house, with plans of throwing a massive end of summer blowout. The only problem is, these guys are still trying to figure out who they are, and what they want, having not taken any steps towards adulthood in their time at college. Jim is still the sexually curious buffoon whose misadventures lead to embarrassing situations every time he gets aroused, Oz is dealing with Heather (Mena Suvari) being in Europe on a semester abroad program, Kevin has fooled himself into thinking he can get back with his high school sweetheart Vicky (Tara Reid), and Finch is practicing the art of Tantra in anticipation of another rendezvous with Stifler's mom. Stifler? His only interest is the same as usual: getting laid, though the conquest he's eying may be out of his reach, as a pair of perceived lesbians have caught his eye. They may be a year older, but the guys haven't changed one bit.
'American Pie 2' is a typical, stilted sequel. Yes, it made beaucoup bucks at the box office, besting the original, and it didn't kill the series, as another film would come down the pipe soon after. The problem with this film is it cannot stand on its own two legs… quite possibly because it doesn't have any legs to speak of. Throughout this second film, there are constant allusions to the first, made in passing, that make it impossible for a newcomer to entirely get the gist of what is going on. Character motivation is therefore puzzling, and character development is, for the most part, nonexistent. Worse still, this sequel attempts to one-up the original, and in doing so, ups the ante, only to fall flat on its face on a number of occasions.
We can't blame the shortcomings of this film on the new director, as writer Adam Herz is still involved in this second take. Rather, lazy filmmaking is to blame. While repeated shots (like the one that tracks Stifler through his own home to introduce his party) are troubled, nothing comes close to the "bigger is better" mentality that ruins many a film. Why have Stifler accidentally drink someone's…byproduct, when he can be bathed in it? Why have one nude girl, when you can have two? The setup makes less sense, the characters now are only there to show off their bodies, and there's no emotional interest in the scene. Pie? No, we can't have Jim do the same masturbatory mishaps, so why not give him embarrassing sexual encounters and a new way to obliterate his self esteem through self gratification? The bad ideas come at a rapid pace, but none, and I do mean none, come close to the horror that is having to hear Chris Klein attempt phone sex. It's awful. One could probably replace any horror icon with Klein rubbing his junk and moaning into a phone and still get the desired results. Admit it: you're pretty creeped out just thinking about it, aren't you?
The biggest problem with 'American Pie 2' is simple: too many characters, too little for most of them to do. Klein's Oz character is not needed, whatsoever, nor is Suvari's Heather, as they drag down the pace and accomplish nothing. While they were excised for 'American Wedding,' the cut should have been made sooner. Natasha Lyonne's supporting character again steals time, as does John Cho's one note MILF chanter. While Shannon Elizabeth's Nadia plays a crucial role in the first film, and acts as the catalyst for Jim's arc in the second, she gets too much attention, as well. In fact, the main development of this second film is given so little screen time that its resolution feels more like a swerve than a natural development.
Why this film tries to parrot the first one so closely is a question, as 'American Pie' is not without its faults; its saving grace lies in the likability of the characters, not so much the scenarios they get into. Kevin remains a completely oblivious ass, only now he spouts exposition like he's in a George Lucas film, proudly proclaiming "Hello summer!" like a buffoon, before telling his friends "we're going to be the shit, everybody on the beach is going to know us!", and it takes a while for us to find out that his lack of moving on in life is more troubling than we once thought. The music queues are terrible and don't match the tone of the film, like an FM radio new-rock best-of compilation of 2001, while the setting feels far too much like California (where it was filmed), instead of Michigan. Stifler's budding friendship with the guys, who disliked him in private, makes little sense, while his "cool guy" image is dashed as he screams and wails like a girl talking about a music video on TRL.
While it's nice to finally visit band camp, 'American Pie 2' does little for the franchise. It's a direct imitation of the original, and brings so little originality to the table that it's hard to stomach. This film is only of note for a few reasons, possibly the wrong reasons, like how Tara Reid is beginning her "raccoon eyes" phase, in that period before she began her Frankenstein surgery scars phase. This film tries to be 'American Pie' 1.5 rather than a real second film, and for that, we get a film with limited replay value, and limited point.
The Disc: Vital Stats
All three films in the original 'American Pie' trilogy come to Blu-ray on Region free BD50 discs, housed in non-cut-out eco-cases, beneath attractive slipcovers that replicate the artwork beneath, with blue spines instead of plain white. A major problem with this disc is the way Universal now is not using a menu before disc play. While the film defaults to the unrated cut of the film, if you are watching extras, you're in for a pain in the ass. Even if you pause the film and select an extra, when it is complete, the film resumes. There's no way around this, no way to get to a top menu. Considering the amount of extras found on these three discs, it's a nightmare.
'American Pie 2' comes to Blu-ray with a VC-1 encode at 1080p. The end result is a marked improvement compared to either Blu-ray release of 'American Pie.'
Yes, it starts out with one of the dullest opening shots in some time, marked with undersaturation and awkward salmon-like skin tones, and it ends with a horrific shot, but for every other scene, we get actual detail. Detail! What was sorely missing on 'American Pie' is found here, not so much in abundance but in a significant upgrade.
While my eye was constantly drawn to pores on faces, visible through even the cakiest of blemish-hiding makeup, I was also surprised at the bump up in texture, as shirts look like actual shirts, not just colored drapes adorning nubile bodies. Skin tones can run a little orange at times, but for the most part are natural, while colors are regularly solid, almost bold and powerful. There's some minor noise visible, but it's not as frequent as the previous film, and the amount of dirt is dropped as well, though there are a few bigger quick splotches. And while this is all well and good, I will say that DNR is still sometimes visible on this sequel, most obviously when we catch Finch first meditating, grain freezes and shifts randomly in the grass. Of course, an ugly as sin opening shot is brought to our minds again as the film ends, as the shots loading the truck once the party has ended are equally flat and dull. Of the three 'American Pie' films hitting Blu-ray together, this one looks the best, folks, and even it isn't without issue.
Also, readers: the above mentioned encode is not a typo. 'American Pie' and 'American Wedding' are MPEG-4, while 'Pie 2' is VC-1. It's a little odd, just like the digital copy situation on the third film!
The audio for 'American Pie 2' is another step up from the somewhat lame first film's Blu-ray.
Again presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, this sequel sports natural movement and localization effects that are spread evenly and believably throughout the film, with no major lengthy gaps between usage. Bass pop is much upgraded, as it's actually noticeable this time around, both in the score and as an ambient effect. Yelling doesn't distort, and dynamics are quite sound, but there isn't much in regards to non-music volume spiking. The highlight of this disc's audio has to be the band camp moments, that hit all channels fluently.
I wasn't too happy with the way noises in the opening blended together, but the track does clear up for the remainder.
This set includes a bonus DVD copy of the film, and features both cuts, theatrical and unrated, on the Blu-ray disc.
After watching the footage that didn't make its way onto 'American Pie 2' in the mega-extra on the first film's Blu-ray disc, I can understand a little better some of the shortcomings of this film. With entire plots thrown away, and numerous sequences reshot in an attempt to keep the film funny and casual rather than even a slight bit serious or dramatic, there were bound to be issues, and this film can't overcome the hurdles created by the poor test screening scores. In a cruel twist of fate, this is the best Blu-ray of the original trilogy, both in video and audio, and it features a megaton of extras, including a whopping four audio tracks. Call me crazy, but I'm going to give this one the best recommendation of the lot. If you only upgraded one disc in your 'Pie' series, make it this one.