Monday, 30 April 2012

From the archive: "American Pie 2"

The real difference between the first American Pie and a teen sex comedy of the Porky's persuasion was that the horny young men of the former would never dream of frequenting a brothel. AP1 preached sex with, if not someone you love, then certainly someone you know; the inevitable sequel - American Pie 2, written (again) by Adam Herz, and directed by newcomer J.B. Rogers - is dedicated to making its young men better lovers. According to Herz's script, this is a matter of saying the right things over and over again, of constant reassurance intended to make both parties comfortable. Herz makes sure his viewers are on safe ground for the sequel, reprising key lines and situations for anyone who came in late, though he's a little too in love with his own semi-iconic dialogue ("This one time, at band camp..." gets thrust into cinematic lore through sheer repetition). Most teenagers will, I suspect, obtain just as much enjoyment from these re-runs as they did first time around: hot sex unintentionally broadcast to an audience of hundreds (AP2's medium of choice is CB radio rather than the Internet, which can't help but seem a little retro), parties that get so wild everyone continues to drink from paper cups and listens to Blink 182 songs. The round-up of even minor characters from the original is so scrupulous that our leads often have to prompt one another whenever another half-remembered face appears: "Who's that?" "It's Stifler's brother."

The entire cast's willingness to return - a major selling point - is a tribute to the roundedness (not to mention success) of Herz's first script, if not quite his second: Mena Suvari and Chris Klein are stuck in roles that seem to have shrunk in inverse proportion to their foreheads, and the female characters have been put to one side rather. Tara Reid and Natasha Lyonne are stuck with summer jobs in a clothes shop while their male counterparts work on renovating a house - a house belonging to fantasy sex objects at that - and simultaneously rebuilding friendships that may have suffered from time apart at college. The acting honours are therefore taken by Alyson Hannigan, who here turns her band-camp kook Michelle into something dementedly sexual (and genuinely touching), and Seann William Scott as Stifler, who - after Road Trip and Dude, Where's My Car? - seems to be building a whole career out of his note-perfect impersonation of a particular species of gormless American lunk. (At least, one hopes it is just an impersonation.) American Pie 2 is nevertheless filled with a late-summer melancholy, the sense that its little boys and its subgenre have maybe had their day. A major set-piece, in which hapless hero Jim (Jason Biggs) superglues his hand to his penis, plays out on the theatre of cruelty (rather than the mere embarrassment evoked in the first film), with a soundtrack of rips and squelches alternating with Alien Ant Farm. The jokes in an intermittently funny and mostly enjoyable film dry up half-an-hour from the end, Rogers losing the comic momentum Herz has previously built up; but then the sight of these characters growing up and settling down was never going to be as much fun as that of Stifler getting urinated upon, or of two lesbians making out with one another.

(September 2001)

American Pie 2 screens on ITV2 this Thursday at 11.15pm.

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