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American Pie 2 Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 2001

American Pie 2 artwork

Two years ago, the critically-underrated and landmark film "American Pie" explored the post-modern aspects of today's youth counter-culture. Through the daring sexual exploits of protagonists Jim and his friends, "American Pie" brilliantly recontextualized what cultural theorist Frederic Jameson described as the 'post-modern state', a hallmark of late capitalism in which 'moral judgments are irrelevant or inoperative' due to the pursuit of material wealth. In the universe of "American Pie", the characters subverted their emotional connection with others and opted instead to pursue transaction-based relationships involving the exchange of sexual favors, sometimes with inanimate objects (as with the titular baked confection). Essentially a tragicomedy, the characters of "American Pie" found themselves at ease in such an operating environment, a testament to their still-nascent emotional maturity and inability to recognize their own morally-ambivalent existence.

With "American Pie 2", this lush narrative territory is revisited, albeit with a more reflective and mature perspective. Evocative of the existentialist works of the late Samuel Beckett, absurdist playwright and novelist, "American Pie 2" places its returning protagonists in a state of pensive alienation as they await to rekindle the quid pro quo relationships that they had established in the first film. Unfortunately for some, like Vladimir and Estragon in Beckett's "Waiting for Godot", salvation never arrives, as their post-modern state results only in stagnation. Indeed, reprieve only comes to those who are finally able to recognize the shortcomings of pure transaction-based relationships, while finding the courage to form more meaningful emotional connections with others. With such a rich thematic subtext at play, there is little doubt that "American Pie 2" will be remembered in years to come as being more influential than its predecessor, a triumphant turning point in the annals of post-modern cinema... NOT!

Jason Biggs and Eugene Levy

"American Pie 2" picks up the action a year after the close of the first film, with the "American Pie" gang having spent their first year in college. With nothing to do over the summer break, Jim (Jason Biggs, seen recently in "Saving Silverman") and the boys rent a beach house and make plans for a big blow-out at the end of the summer.

Mena Suvari, Chris Klein, and Thomas Ian Nicholas

Over the course of the next twelve weeks, they each must learn to cope with being 'left behind'. For the clutzy Jim, who is still wondering why he was discarded by band geek Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) right after the high school prom, it means looking forward with nervous anticipation of the return of Czech exchange student Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth). Meanwhile, nice guy Oz (Chris Klein, seen recently in "Say It Isn't So") is waiting for girlfriend Heather (Mena Suvari of "Sugar & Spice") to return from studying abroad in Europe. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is still pining for Vicky (Tara Reid of "Josie and the Pussycats"), whom he broke up with at the end of the first film. Stifler (Seann William Scott of "Evolution") is still searching for the ultimate sexual experience, while Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is still lusting after his mother (Jennifer Coolidge of "Legally Blonde"). Meanwhile, gifted actress Natasha Lyonne (who plays Jessica) is on the lookout for a meatier role in the movie.

Joelle Carter, Biggs, Molly Cheek, Levy, and Larry Drake

Like this year's "Scary Movie 2", "American Pie 2" is yet another sequel driven by purely financial reasons, regardless of whether or not there is a story worthwhile telling. It seems this latest piece of "Pie" was constructed around four or five big gags, with the script only serving as filler. The shoddy construction of the story is apparent from the very first scene, in which Jim attempts (unsuccessfully as usual) to have 'goodbye sex' with a friendly coed (Joelle Carter of "High Fidelity") in his dorm, only to have his dad (Eugene Levy) walk in on them. If that weren't enough, the script then has the coed's parents to walk into Jim's dorm to further add to the confusion. Why does this happen, especially when the coed has her own dorm elsewhere, which is where her parents would presumably be looking for her in the first place? Who knows?

Biggs and Shannon Elizabeth

Thus, over the course of the more-than-tolerable one-and-three-quarter-hour running time, the choppy story moves aimlessly from one tired scene to the next, misfiring gags more often than not. Not surprisingly, it ends well for all concerned, though the manner in which all the loose ends are tied up is rather arbitrary, with characters having a sudden change of heart, or being miraculously transformed by some banality uttered by another character. For example, a glaring missed opportunity can be found in Jim's sudden change of heart over Nadia, which ends up being introduced as an afterthought in the film's last half-hour. Had this thread of divided loyalties and the alternative love interest been developed earlier, Jim's about-face would have been more credible, as opposed to being the product of some screenwriter's whimsy.

Finally, like its predecessor, the two dissimilar concepts of 'gross' and 'funny' are used interchangeably in "American Pie 2", as though having the former guarantees the latter. As a result, some of the 'hilarious' set pieces involve a character being urinated on, an almost inconceivable mix-up between lubricant and Crazy Glue, and the unconventional use of a trumpet. About the closest "American Pie 2" comes to being funny is a run-in that the guys have with a pair of alleged lesbians (who pull a clever reversal), as well as what is probably the best (and only raunch-free) scene in the film, when Jim is mistaken for a musical prodigy while at band camp and is forced to demonstrate his mastery of the trombone.

If you managed to enjoy the first "American Pie", then you will probably enjoy "American Pie 2", which delivers more of the same low-brow-humor-that-borders-on-soft-porn in abundance. But if you are looking for something that is a little bit more than an endless parade of raunchy scenes, some funny and many not-so-funny, strung together by a threadbare plot and some stock characterizations, this second serving of "American Pie" will probably leave you more nauseated than satisfied.

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures. All rights reserved.

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