Saturday, 30 July 2011

American Pie 2 (2001)

IT'S TIME FOR A SECOND HELPING

Yesterday, we covered American Pie, a film about the trials, tribulations and general spurtings of a group of young people trying to get to grips with sex. It was really successful and played a big part in reviving the lost art of the teen movie, so naturally they had to do a sequel. They reassembled the whole cast (right down to the guy and his monkey) and proceeded to jump back into the fray for the next stage of romantic encounter – relationships.

After their first year at college, Jim (Jason Biggs), Oz (Chris Klein), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Stifler (Seann William Scott) reunite for a summer of fun on the lake. They each still have their relationship woes, but look to change all of that by the end of their summer.

For the second outing of the Pie gang, Adam Herz returned to pen the script, this time with help from David H. Steinberg. Frankly, this is perhaps a misstep right off the bat. Whilst Herz’s solo effort last time round wasn’t exactly the stuff of greatness, it held a nice charm and warmth to it, despite the jokes about sperm and poop. Steinberg’s strokes are a bit broader, so the delicate touches get somewhat smothered by reaching for the gags about lesbians and pee. It rather says a lot that Steinberg would go on to write the kind of cheap and crass sex comedies that American Pie opened the door for. Slackers, National Lampoon’s Barely Legal, even one of the relentless sequels in the American Pie franchise The Book of Love. I really can’t get around the feeling that mild sense of homophobia that creeps it head into one scene is down to Steinberg rather than Herz. The scene I’m referring to is one where three of the guys try to get a live show from two women they think are lesbians, whose house they just snuck into. The girls decide to oblige, but only if the boys go first. As such, we’re treated to the disgusted gagging of Stifler grabbing Finch's ass and Stifler and Jim making out. The actors do make it as funny as they can, but there’s still something that may feel off to some. Nevertheless, Herz is onboard and we’ve still got the same characters that were so lovable the first time round. Like the first time, the gross scenes are coupled with moments of actual considerations on the difficulty of the long distance relationship, pretending you’re over someone when you’re not and the ever-present concern of not being bad in bed. Also, the guys and girls get pretty even treatment again, both sides having their wisdom and neuroses, their kinks and inadequacies. So, for any points that feel tired or somewhat disagreeable, there are other points to pick it up again. By the way, I’m aware that all of this maybe seems like I’m being rather unfair on Steinberg, especially since I’ll never really know who was responsible for what in the script. As such, I’ll lay equal blame and praise on both of them. Well done, Herz and Steinberg, and for shame.

The direction duties have also been relocated, here being handed to J.B. Rogers. Rogers served as the First Assistant Director on the first American Pie, as well as several other films, which included time under gross-out kings the Farrelly brothers. It’s a good choice, since Rogers is able to maintain that sense of camaraderie and friendship that had been built in the last film. However, Rogers doesn’t have the same well-developed sense of pace, so American Pie 2 feels a bit too long. The lesbian sequence was one of the comedic centrepieces of the film, but there are moments when you can see even the actors think it’s running on a bit. The party sequences are also a bit of a drag. There are too many shots of people supposedly enjoying themselves in an effort to establish location and mood, as well as looting some of the more assured touches from the first film, but it does weigh things down. Also, the music used is a rather shameless grab at the top hits of the moment rather than appropriate choices, which do cast a shadow over the scenes they’re supposed to be underscoring. Overall, it’s actually not a bad job, rather it could just use a bit of tightening up.

The actors continues to do as good a job as the last time out, with a slight re-jigging of the pecking order depending on how popular characters were in the first film. As such, Stifler, Michelle and Jim’s dad get a bit more attention. Naturally, this slightly pushes some into the background a bit, like Kevin and Vicky. However, there’s no sense that there’s bitterness about this and everyone does still remain as solid and likable as the last time. Once again, it’s thanks to the cast that what could have been something of a juvenile mess instead still comes across as quite charming and funny.

It does feel longer, it’s sometimes more soundtrack than film, and the comedy sequences are really just a rehash of the previous film’s big moments. That said, it does still have an eye for some of the slightly complicated aspects of relationships, and the cast remain as good and charming as ever. It doesn’t really have the same impact as the first, mainly because it doesn’t have the poise of the previous outing and its reliance on formula removes the potential for surprise, but it’s still a fairly decent follow-up to the first.

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