'American Pie 2'

SexAdam HerzMoviesEntertainmentTara ReidEducationShannon Elizabeth

The '2' in the title says all you need to know about "American Pie 2." It's a copy all the way, a disheartening attempt to capitalize on the success of the original.

Though few adults saw it, the first "American Pie" was more than a power at the box office. It had a genuine sweetness that made it the most enjoyable of the teenage gross-out movies (if that's not a contradiction in terms), an unlikely amalgam of the Farrelly brothers and Andy Hardy.

This new version does try to recapture the good side of the first film, but it feels disingenuous and manipulative: That kind of emotion can't be duplicated on demand just because the box office warrants it. What turns out to be regrettably easier to manufacture is the gross-out material. Screenwriter Adam Herz, who also did the screenplay the first time around, has gone heavily into raw language and bodily function humor. The film also has an unpleasant attitude toward lesbians and a kind of leering voyeurism that is not any less exploitative because it attempts to be self-mocking.

Chris and Paul Weitz, the original directors, have moved on to be executive producers, leaving the new film in the uncertain hands of director J.B. Rogers, responsible for the unwatchable Farrelly-derived "Say It Isn't So." Rogers' thirst for vulgarity is bottomless, and he pushes so hard on almost every scene things soon become painful.

The most fundamental dilemma "American Pie 2" faces, however, is that its determination to follow the first film like a blueprint is counterproductive. No characters do anything they haven't already done, no surprising twists have a chance of materializing, everything is terminally obvious and predictable.

Though the Weitzes were smart enough to stay out of the director's chair this time, their wisdom wasn't shared by the cast, with more than a dozen key roles filled by actors returning from the first venture. Some of these parts, however, are now so peripheral that one wonders if the actors in question got suspicious and demanded as small a presence as possible.

It's one year later for the gregarious bunch of high school seniors we fondly remember. They've now finished their freshman year at college and are spending the summer at a rented beach house, but though the guys feel "we're college men now," their behavior hasn't gone through any noticeable changes. They're still completely obsessed with sex, and their lives are still an endless orgy of embarrassment.

This is especially true for Jim (Jason Biggs), the guy who danced with a pie in the original. Still without a noticeable amount of romantic experience or confidence, he is delighted and petrified to learn that senior year heartthrob Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) is coming to visit at summer's end. Which gives him enough time to consult with his flute-playing prom date Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) about how to improve his woeful performance.

Jim's pals are also stuck in the past. Raunch king Stifler (Seann William Scott) is just as obnoxious if not more so, and the ethereal Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is still thinking longingly about Stifler's mom. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Vicky (Tara Reid) still can't decide if they're a couple or not. And with true love Heather (Mena Suvari in little more than a cameo) off in Europe, the hunky Oz (Chris Klein) has hardly anything to do.

It would be dishonest to pretend there isn't a laugh or two in "America Pie 2," but none that are worth wading through all the crassness that surrounds them. Just as it was for many of its characters, it's the first time that remains special for the film as well.

'American Pie 2'

Jason Biggs: Jim

Seann William: Scott Stifler

Shannon Elizabeth: Nadia

Eugene Levy: Jim's Dad

Alyson Hannigan: Michelle

Chris Klein: Oz

Natasha Lyonne: Jessica

Eddie Kaye: Thomas Finch

Thomas Ian Nicholas: Kevin

Tara Reid: Vicky

*

A Zide/Perry-Liveplanet production, released by Universal Pictures. Director J. B. Rogers. Producers Warren Zide, Craig Petty, Chris Moore. Executive producers Adam Herz, Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz. Screenplay Adam Herz, story by David H. Steinberg and Adam Herz. Cinematography Mark Irwin. Editors Larry Madaras, Stuart Pappe. Costumes Alexandra Welker. Music David Lawrence. Production design Richard Toyon. Art director Kitty Doris-Bates. Set decorator Karen Agresti. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

In general release.

MPAA rating: R, for strong sexual content, crude humor, language and drinking. Times guidelines: lots of very crude language and jokes involving body parts and some fairly explicit sex scenes.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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