'American Pie 2': long-awaited sequel tries too hard

by John Teti | 8/22/01 5:00am

"American Pie" charmed us because it bravely put intelligent, likeable characters in a teen comedy. The result was a film with sensitivity to match its bawdiness.

The writers of "American Pie 2" struggle to recapture the emotional sweetness of the first, but it is drowned out with testosterone. The innocence so critical to "Pie's" humor is gone, and the upshot is that most of the new gags fall flat.

The heavily previewed opening scene is typical. Jim (Jason Biggs), hunkering down with a female friend at the end of freshman year for some "goodbye sex," is interrupted mid-coitus by his father (Eugene Levy). Mom follows soon after.

Then the girl's mother and father walk in, and the humiliation starts anew. Never mind why the parents of Jim's sex partner would go to his dorm room! Sometimes believability must be sacrificed for humor, which would apply if this sequence were humorous.

Home from college, Jim and friends -- Oz (Chris Klein), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Stifler (Seann William Scott) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) -- find hometown life too dull and decide to spend the summer at a beach house at the lake.

The guys get a job painting houses to pay rent. They appear to have gotten lucky when their first clients are two gorgeous, sexually uninhibited women. Immediately suspecting that the women are lesbians, Stifler brings Jim and Finch into the house to investigate.

They are caught, of course, and after a series of painfully contrived twists involving a dildo and crossed walkie-talkie signals, the vixens compel Stifler to kiss Jim on the lips.

The buddies squirm as if this were one of the movie's big "gross-out" moments, which I suppose it is if you're a homophobe like Stifler. Otherwise, it's just awkward. What's peculiar about this scene is that Seann William Scott was begrudgingly locking lips with another young teen star, Ashton Kutcher, just a year ago.

That was in "Dude, Where's My Car?" -- a stupider but funnier movie than this one. "Pie 2" reaches its nadir when it lifts a page straight from "Dude's" playbook and still manages to foul up the execution.

The most highly anticipated gag is Jim gluing himself to himself. Again, a funny idea falters, this time because it's too predictable. I initially blamed this on the previews, which had spoiled the punchline many times over.

But the hilarious apple pie scene in the first "Pie" had been heavily promoted, too -- they named the movie after it! "Pie 2" just tries too hard. Compare the setups for the super glue and apple pie gags.

Super glue: After their homoerotic adventure, Stifler purchases porn for all his friends to reassert their manliness. He also buys some "personal lubricant" for Jim on a lark. Later, while emulating Finch's tantric meditation poses, Jim launches into an impromptu kung-fu routine. An errant kick shatters his bedside reading lamp. Jim spends the afternoon gluing the pieces back together. Settling into bed that night, Jim puts the porn video in his VCR and places the lube on his bedside table.

Apple pie: Oz compares oral sex to "warm apple pie." Jim's mom bakes an apple pie.

"Pie" played off the fact that everybody knew what was coming. "Pie 2" laboriously tires us of the joke long before the payoff.

Promotions for this film touted the fact that the whole gang returns, which is technically true, but "Pie 2" focuses much more on the males than "Pie."

Oz's girlfriend, Heather (Mena Suvari) is relegated to Europe for most of the summer, while Kevin's ex Vicky (Tara Reid) and weirdo Jessica (Natasha Lyonne) make fleeting appearances.

Of course, Stifler's increased presence means there can be more beer-guzzling and breast-ogling.

The exception to this trend is Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), that girl from band camp who loved and left Jim after senior prom. She plays an expanded role in the sequel, which is fortunate because her exchanges with Jim often recapture the spark of the first film -- except, perhaps, when she anally probes the poor boy with a trumpet. (Yes, this actually happens.)

Another bright spot is Levy, whose eyebrows alone can get a laugh. After the ham-fisted first scene, the nuance of Levy's loving/bumbling father figure provides a breather from the boorishness of the protagonists.

There are glimpses of "Pie's" spirit in this movie, but they are short-lived. With sympathy for the characters replaced with an orgiastic sensibility, "Pie 2" is just another oversexed teen comedy.