August 27, 2001 -- I went into "American Pie 2" with low expectations and was disappointed even at that. It isn't as good as the first film, despite having one of the same writers and many returning cast members. It has heart and some laughs, just not as many laughs as the first film. The material seems a little bit tired.
Returning cast members from the first film include Jason Biggs as Jim Levenstein, Eugene Levy as Jim's father, Shannon Elizabeth as Nadia, Alyson Hannigan as Michelle Flaherty, Chris Klein as Oz, Natasha Lyonne as Jessica, Thomas Ian Nicholas as Kevin Myers, Tara Reid as Vicky, Seann William Scott as Stifler, Mena Suvari as Heather, Eddie Kaye Thomas as Finch and Chris Owen as Sherman.
The director this time around is James B. Rogers who was first assistant director and associate producer on the original film and was assistant director of "There's Something About Mary," "Dumb and Dumber," "Kingpin" and "Me, Myself & Irene." One of the film's writers, Adam Herz (also executive producer), also wrote "American Pie." The story takes place after the five friends, Kevin, Jim, Oz, Finch and Stifler, spend their first year in college. They decide to spend the summer together in a fancy house on the beach, having lots of parties.
Although Stifler hasn't matured a bit, the other characters show signs of growing up. There are couples suffering through long-distance relationships, trying to be friends with former lovers, trying to get over sexual obsessions, and Jim Levenstein is just trying to avoid embarrassment, without much success. Jim's character is once again the butt of some very humiliating jokes, including one that's very similar to a famous zipper joke in "There's Something About Mary." There is also the usual crotch humor, urination humor, crude language and behavior and the other standard stuff of teenage sex comedies. Hey, don't blame Hollywood, these kinds of films cost little to make and people have actually paid over $100 million in tickets to see this stuff. Expect more of this, lots more. At the heart of all this insensitivity, is a more sensitive and sentimental story about friendships between the guys at the summer house and a growing friendship between Jim and Jessica.
The warmth of friendships, the joy and pain of relationships, the vulnerabilities of some of the characters and growing pains, these things were just as effective as they were in the first film. The humor seemed to be a little forced, however, not quite as sharp as in the first film. The high-school level humor, combined with maturing characters makes for a combination that doesn't mesh. The whole comedic humiliation trip seemed tired and really unnecessary, like it was a retreaded formula that was included just because it worked so well in the first film. It is a trap that many sequels fall into. It seems to be a winning formula, however. Adam Sandler has made a fortune with this same formula for years. It is an odd combination of humiliation humor with sloppy sentimentality. "Joe Dirt" is an example of the formula. A little of it goes a long way. We seem to be drowning in it.
Biggs and Natasha Lyonne are quite good together. Biggs reminds me of Ben Stiller, who starred in "There's Something About Mary. Biggs, like Stiller, is a master of being the victim of humiliation humor. Seann William Scott is becoming a real specialist as a kind of obnoxious slacker party animal hero. He's been very effective during the past two years in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," "Evolution," "Dude, Where's My Car?" "Road Trip" and "Final Destination." Biggs and Shannon Elizabeth also appeared in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back." Some of the characters are very likeable, as they were in the first film. It just didn't seem as funny this time around. Since this film is quite successful, I'm sure there will be another sequel coming up in a couple of years. We'll see how that one goes. This film rates a C.
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