[Screen It]

(2001) (Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott) (R)

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Comedy: A group of friends spend the summer after their freshmen year in college renting a lake home where they try to sort out their sexual feelings and experiences with various women.
It's been a year since Jim (JASON BIGGS), Oz (CHRIS KLEIN), Kevin (THOMAS IAN NICHOLAS) and Finch (EDDIE KAYE THOMAS) made a pact to lose their virginity before the end of high school. With their freshmen year in college now over, the four - along with party fiend Stifler (SEANN WILLIAM SCOTT) -- decide to rent a summer place to kick back, have fun and hopefully get lucky with the ladies.

Jim is still fixated on Nadia (SHANNON ELIZABETH), a foreign exchange student with whom he had his first sexual experience, but he worries that she'll be expecting more than he can deliver when she arrives later in the summer. Accordingly, he asks for help from Michelle (ALYSON HANINGAN), the band geek to whom he later lost his virginity who decides to give him some pointers about women.

While Oz has phone sex with his girlfriend, Heather (MENA SUVARI), who's flown overseas, Finch finds himself still enamored with Stifler's mom and the philosophy of tantric sex, and Kevin expects something more from Vicky (TARA REID) due to their earlier sexual encounter, although she just wants to be friends.

As various people - including Vicky's friend, Jessica (NATASHA LYONNE), Stifler's younger brother (ELI MARIENTHAL) and a nerdy student, Sherman (CHRIS OWEN), who calls himself the Sherminator - descend upon the guys' summer place, and Jim's Dad (EUGENE LEVY) continues in his embarrassing quest to make sure his son is sexually well-adjusted, the guys try to sort out their various relationships and sexual quandaries before the summer is done.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
As long as teen and twenty-something males think, fantasize, talk about or engage in sexual behavior, there will be films - dramatic or comedic -- about similar characters doing the same. While teen sex comedies have never really gone away since "Porky's" put them on the map so many decades ago, the 1999 release of "American Pie" brought them back into the mainstream.

The tale of four high school students who made a pact to lose their virginity before they graduated, the film was a surprise hit that offered some outrageous humor in its mixture of traditional sex comedy material and the gross out moments of "There's Something About Mary."

Not surprisingly, it has now begotten a sequel, the imaginatively titled, "American Pie 2." While the titular desert only makes a brief, cameo appearance in the opening sequence, the film - like any good or bad sequel - delivers more of the same that made the original so popular.

Here, that means most of the cast from the first film has returned to reprise their various roles and talk about, lament over or engage in sex, much of it related to encounters that occurred in the first film. There's also more crude humor, band instruments used for something other than music, and a few prominent set pieces that will probably by remembered long after the rest of the picture is a distant memory.

One need not have seen the original to "appreciate" the humor contained within this effort, but a familiarity with "American Pie" will certainly make the "fine details" of this one a bit easier to follow. Of course, the closer you fall into the desired viewer demographic, and the more open-minded and less sensitive you are will probably determine how you react to the film and its material.

There's no denying that it's sophomoric at best, and clearly doesn't offer much from an artistic sense for anyone looking for even halfway decent writing, direction or acting. Yet, the question of whether it's funny or not will probably all depend on a matter of taste as well as age and gender (coarse, young and male will work, everything/everyone else is debatable).

Like the first film, this one is weak as far as the basic plot goes, and the comedic pacing is haphazard at best, with the ending being rather blasť when compared to what precedes it. Perhaps sensing this, director J.B. Rogers ("Say It Isn't So") and returning screenwriter Adam Herz ("American Pie") -- who works from a story by David H. Steinberg -seemingly put all of their time and effort into the film's signature set pieces, apparently hoping that the laughs they might spawn would fill the dead space gaps between them.

The biggest one - obviously designed to match the original film's copulatory apple pie scene in outrageous outlandishness - is admitting funny, as it involves a teen, a porno tape and some fast drying glue that ends up in the wrong and rather embarrassing places. Like all of the film's humor, one will see this particular joke coming from a mile away, but as long as you don't mind the material, you may find the scene amusing or even possibly hilarious.

The other big moment - where three guys must hide in the bedroom of women they believe are lesbians and have just returned home - works a bit better from a comedy standpoint, but falls under the same conditional guidelines as the rest. The opening part of that - the hiding - comes off as a bit of enjoyable, sitcom style tomfoolery, while the latter turns into a increasingly embarrassing/uncomfortable game of tit-for-tat (pun intended) where the guys are asked to do some things with each other in order to have their lesbian fantasies realized.

In essence, those scenes and most of the film in general take familiar material of one degree or another and then push it to the exaggerated limit for laughs. Accordingly, the male characters find themselves in various sexual situations that get out of control.

Embodying the main character, Jason Biggs ("Saving Silverman," "Loser") gets the most such material (he being the unfortunate glue victim) and one can't deny that the actor seems game to try anything to elicit a laugh. Chris Klein ("Election," "Here on Earth") and Thomas Ian Nicholas ("Rookie of the Year," "A Kid in King Arthur's Court") are pretty much wasted in their roles, while Eddie Kaye Thomas ("Freddy Got Fingered," "Black and White") isn't successful at making his character's obsession with tantric sex funny.

It's Seann William Scott ("Evolution," "Dude, Where's My Car?") who steals the show, however, thanks to his amoral, wide-eyed looks of incredulousness, anger and shock, along with the "best" expressive vocal delivery of profanity this side of Jason Mewes in all of Kevin Smith's films. As in the first film, such of the funniest moments also come from Eugene Levy ("Best of Show," "Father of the Bride 2") who returns as the well-meaning, but embarrassing father who wants to make sure his boy grows up to be a sexually well-adjusted young man.

Most of the ladies, save for Alyson Haningan ("American Pie," TV's "Buffy the Vampire Player") as the band geek/sex & romance mentor, get far less material and developed characters this time around. While familiar due to reprising their original roles, Shannon Elizabeth ("Tomcats," "Scary Movie"), Natasha Lyonne ("Detroit Rock City," "Slums of Beverly Hills"), Tara Reid ("Josie and the Pussycats," "Just Visiting") and especially Mena Suvari ("Sugar & Spice," "American Beauty") - who appears to have shot her scenes at a different time and place than everyone else - can't do much with their parts.

Simply put, if you enjoyed the original film, chances are you'll probably find this one entertaining as it dredges up old material and puts a few new spins on it. It also offers some big laughs if you're in the right frame of mind and/or a teen or twenty-something male.

If not, the material may just be too tedious and/or offensive, only adding insult to injury since it's a poorly made film from an overall artistic standpoint. Although it delivers what's expected of it for those wanting to see such a film, it's really not that good of a picture. Thus, "American Pie 2" rates as a 3.5 out of 10.

Reviewed August 7, 2001 / Posted August 10, 2001

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