The American Pie Series
American Pie (April 4/12)
A fairly interminable teen comedy, American Pie follows four high school buddies (Jason Biggs' Jim, Chris Klein's Oz, Thomas Ian Nicholas' Kevin, and Eddie Kaye Thomas' Finch) as they vow to lose their respective virginities by prom night - with the film detailing the foursome's expectedly flamboyant and over-the-top efforts at accomplishing this feat. Filmmaker Paul Weitz, working from Adam Herz's screenplay, has infused American Pie with a low-key and surprisingly down-to-earth sensibility that proves instrumental at initially capturing the viewer's interest, with the perfectly watchable atmosphere heightened by the affable work from the various performers. (As likable as the four leads are, however, there's little doubt that the movie's MVP is Seann William Scott - with the actor's frequently hilarious turn as the raunchy Steve Stifler standing as a consistent highlight within the proceedings.) It's only as time progresses that American Pie slowly-but-surely morphs into a distressingly tedious piece of work, as Weitz's ongoing emphasis on aggressively unfunny comedic interludes - eg Jim's infamous encounter with a fresh apple pie - drains one's interest on an increasingly pronounced basis. The meandering midsection, which seems to consist primarily of time-wasting subplots (eg Finch's difficulties using public toilets), eventually leads to a hopelessly sentimental third act that is, to put it mildly, somewhat anticlimactic, which effectively (and ultimately) cements American Pie's place as a disappointingly tame and conventional bit of mainstream filmmaking.
American Pie 2 (April 8/02)
American Pie 2 is that rare comedy sequel that improves upon its predecessor immeasurably, which is - admittedly - not a difficult proposition when one considers the caliber of the original. The entire cast is reunited for this sequel, though most are relegated to supporting roles. The movie picks up a year after the events of the first one, with the gang going on summer holidays after their first year of college. Jim (Jason Biggs) and his buddies (played by Chris Klein, Seann William Scott, Thomas Ian Nicholas, and Lawrence Pressman) decide to rent a cottage by the sea and subsequently party for the duration of their holiday. (Raunchy shenanigans, of course, ensue.) Like the first film, American Pie 2 is incredibly light on plot but heavy on isolated comedic set-pieces. And like the original, most attempts at humor fall completely flat; aside from one really hilarious bit involving Stifler's overly enthusiastic enjoyment of what he thinks is champagne being poured on his head, the movie never quite becomes the laugh riot it's desperately trying to be. While the plotless nature of the film does get a little tiresome after a while, the characters have become endearing enough that we're willing to overlook the lack of a cohesive storyline. Among the actors, Alyson Hannigan, as the sweet and naive yet curiously experienced Michelle, provides the film with some much needed humanity. She's certainly the most compelling character here, and it's easy enough to wish she were the focus of the film. But in all fairness, the rest of the actors are quite good in their roles (Shannon Elizabeth is thankfully offscreen for much of the movie) and Biggs once again proves he can play an effective everyman type. Though Scott's said he'll never do another American Pie movie, American Pie 2 ensures that the idea of further installments is no longer as objectionable as it once was.
American Wedding (August 1/03)
American Wedding supposedly marks the end of the American Pie series, which is something of a shame given that each successive film seems to improve upon its predecessor. While American Wedding is essentially on the same level as the second one, it's certainly miles beyond the original - which was nothing short of an unfunny, downright strained mess. American Wedding opens with Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) getting engaged, much to the delight of Jim's dad (Eugene Levy). The essentially plotless film follows their attempts at organizing a wedding, while also putting up with Stifler (Seann William Scott) and his attempts at throwing a bachelor party for Jim. Unlike the first two films in this series, American Wedding is actually funny throughout - with at least one absolutely hilarious moment involving Stifler and his consumption of the very last thing one should eat. But like the original American Pie, American Wedding occasionally suffers from some sentimental moments that would feel more at home in an episode of Full House. There's no place for mawkishness in a film like this; such elements might have worked had the movie claimed to be a realistic portrayal of young adults, but when you have a character as outrageous as Stifler, that's clearly not the case. But primarily, the film sticks to the tried-and-true formula of gross-out gags and over-the-top shenanigans.
American Pie Presents Band Camp
Though there are several references to previously established characters and Eugene Levy reprises his role as Jim's dad, Band Camp has virtually nothing to do with any of its three predecessors and instead comes off as a typically bawdy sex comedy geared solely towards teens. This time around, we meet Matt Stifler (Tad Hilgenbrink) - Steve Stifler's younger, hornier brother - as he unwillingly attends band camp after ruining his school's graduation ceremonies. Screenwriter Brad Riddell - making his debut - imbues Band Camp with virtually every cliche of the genre one could possibly imagine, including a melodramatic third act that finds Matt re-evaluating his bawdy ways after he double-crosses all his friends to prove that he's still cool. And while the movie does contain the same sort of gross humor that the series has become known for, very little of this stuff is actually funny (a problem that has a lot to do with the fact that the viewer doesn't actually care about any of these people). Hilgenbrink proves early on that he was clearly hired not for his acting abilities (which are virtually non-existent), but rather for his slight resemblance to Seann William Scott. And as effective as Levy is in his limited role, his presence simply isn't enough to disguise the film's status as a shoddy and blatant cash grab.
American Pie Presents The Naked Mile
American Pie Presents Beta House (December 17/07)
Beta House is so completely and utterly devoid of anything even resembling competence that even the most forgiving viewer will be forced to throw their hands up in frustration almost immediately, and it's ultimately difficult not to wonder just which demographic the film has been geared towards (semi-retarded college kids would be my best guess). The continued presence of Eugene Levy in these increasingly inconsequential films is nothing short of baffling, as it goes without saying that the actor deserves far, far better material than this. The storyline follows buddies Erik (John White), Bobby (Nic Nac), and Cooze (Jake Siegel) as they attempt to pledge the Beta House fraternity, with off-the-wall hijinks predictably ensuing as a rival frat challenges the Betas to a series of Greek games. Director Andrew Waller and screenwriter Erik Lindsay constantly (and consistently) aim Beta House squarely at the lowest common denominator, as the film possesses plenty of lewd elements designed to appeal to precisely the sort of drunken frat boys it exclusively portrays. The performances are uniformly unimpressive, although - on a perversely positive note - the film does manage to top its predecessors in terms of gross-out jokes and sequences. So there's that, at least.
no stars out of
American Pie Presents The Book of Love
American Pie Presents The Book of Love marks an obvious attempt to return to the series' high-school oriented roots, as the movie follows three horny teenagers (Bug Hall's Rob, Brandon Hardesty's Lube, and Kevin M. Horton's Nathan) as they doggedly attempt to lose their virginity over the course of a few particularly eventful weeks. Despite the best efforts of a game cast (and although it fares much, much better than its immediate predecessor), American Pie Presents The Book of Love primarily comes off as a typically low-rent and flat-out needless straight-to-video endeavor - with the pervasive lack of laughs ultimately exacerbating the film's myriad of problems. Screenwriter David H. Steinberg offers up eye-rollingly over-the-top comedic set-pieces that become more and more desperate as the movie unfolds (ie a character is raped by a moose), yet it's the absence of compelling characters and the almost uniformly hackneyed nature of the various storylines that inevitably cements American Pie Presents The Book of Love's undeniable downfall. In terms of the former, the protagonists are generally presented as one-dimensional sleazeballs whose ongoing exploits possess few elements designed to capture and sustain the viewer's interest (ie everything here, from Rob's desire to pursue a romantic relationship with his female best friend to Lube's efforts at bedding a classmate who's way out of his league, has been done many times over in other, better movies with far more skill and subtlety). The dearth of positive attributes subsequently ensures that American Pie Presents The Book of Love is unlikely to appeal to even the most ardent American Pie fan, and it's finally impossible not to view the continued existence of these movies as a shameless cash-grab by the studio.
The first true American Pie sequel since 2003's American Wedding, American Reunion follows Jim (Jason Biggs), Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), Oz (Chris Klein), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), and the rest of the gang as they return to East Great Falls for their high school reunion - with the characters' exploits inevitably threatened by a whole raft of comedically-tinged problems and complications. There's little doubt that American Reunion has been designed to echo the original in both its execution and spirit, as the movie, for the most part, comes off as a companion piece that effectively bookends the entire series - with the novelty of the premise going a long way towards initially capturing one's interest. It's just as clear, however, that the film's incongruously languid pace stands as an almost insurmountable obstacle virtually from the get-go, as filmmakers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg have employed an episodic structure that becomes more and more problematic as the thin narrative unfolds - with the ongoing emphasis on subplots of a decidedly underwhelming nature (eg Jim's continuing efforts at resisting the advances of a sultry neighbor) compounding the movie's increasingly lackluster atmosphere. And although Hurwitz and Schlossberg have admittedly peppered the proceedings with a handful of hilarious gags (eg Stifler finally gets his revenge on Finch for sleeping with his mother), American Reunion, saddled with a hopelessly sentimental third act, ultimately establishes itself as an overlong and underdeveloped sequel that could only be loved by hardcore fans of the original film.