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Pie Faced 

No one was expecting groundbreaking cinema from Ameircan Pie 2, the follow-up to the surprise 1999 hit and the final entry in this summer's sequel derby. When movie goers belly up to this particular trough, they ain't in search of a filet. Nope, just unhealthy doses of prop-aided set pieces, wicked comebacks like "Suck this!" and the occasional T&A shot. Y'know ... fun. Still, it's a little aggravating that, in a summer of generally disappointing sequels, Ameircan Pie 2 promises so little and pretty much cashes the check.

As the sequels of summer blur more and more into one another, the main conceit of this limp follow-up may well be the most insulting, which is a shame when sizing up some of the more impressive pieces of the, um, pie. First, some background: Ameircan Pie co-directors Paul and Chris Weitz decided to kick back, executive-produce and let protégé J.B. Rogers do all the heavy lifting in this, his sophomore directing effort. Rogers is no blind date to the low brow, having served as an assistant director to the sometimes-brilliant Farrelly brothers on such subversive trash as Kingpin and There's Something About Mary. He finally debuted as a director with the recent Farrelly brothers-sponsored flop, Say It Isn't So.

The man behind all those funny lines in the first film, Adam Herz, returns in the same role while joining the Weitz brothers as an executive producer. And while we can all agree that plot is rarely worth mentioning in either crass adolescent comedies or sequels -- which should buy this movie plenty of breathing room -- this plot deserved a cocked eye. As fans recall, Jim, Oz, Kevin, Finch and Stiffler spent most of Ameircan Pie trying to go out of high school with a bang not a whimper. Simple enough, and with it came plenty of chuckles. (I'm being kind.) Well, for this go-around, the plot is oh-so-telling: It's the summer after their first year of college, and the gang reunites back home only to die of boredom and seek refuge by renting a beach house on Lake Michigan.

And they're all living in the past! Jim (Jason Biggs) still pines for Czech bombshell Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth). Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) still pines for Vicky (Tara Reid). Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) still pines for Stifler's mom. And Stifler (Seann William Scott) still pines for anything that moves. Nobody can move on -- except, it seems, Oz (Chris Klein), whose challenge is to remain monogamous while Heather (Mena Suvari) is off to Europe for the summer. (A subplot that goes absolutely nowhere.)

Get it? Herz is such a lazy writer, so unimaginative in his storytelling, that he decides to lay the blame at his characters' feet. If I'm going nowhere with this story, guys, I'm taking you with me.

This is all much ado about nothing, I suppose, if Ameircan Pie 2 at least had enough funny set pieces to kill the time leading up to the Big Blowout Party. Instead, we're offered the following scenes: glue mixed up for jack-off lubricant, a tit-for-tat tradeoff involving supposed lesbians, and a trombone solo by Jim, who's mistaken for a retarded kid. OK, believe it or not, in some bizarro-feminist way, the "lesbian" scene is kinda funny.

In a movie of crappy roles, Biggs as Jim gets the Purple Heart here. Jim is obsessive and neurotic, but he's still a hapless fool, and Biggs mines for sympathy out of that fact. His flirtation with band geek Michelle (Alyson Hanigan) at band camp (the two words everyone remembers fondly from the first film) is sweet and funny stuff.

Scott suffers a worse fate as Stifler, forced to do no more than spray the "F" word more times than Joe Pesci, and he deserves better. Scott's intensity and wacked-out intensity borders on Jim Carrey scary. Everyone else is utterly forgettable except for Eugene Levy, who rises above his one-joke character as Jim's square dad to lend a little comic dignity to the proceedings. You almost wanna say like father, like son. Almost.

At its best, Ameircan Pie 2 shows some genuine concern for at least some of its characters, whether it's Kevin's inability to get over a break-up or Michelle's silent, unrequited love for Jim. Herz even borders on sincerity when Kevin confesses to his friends, "My brother told me no matter what, times change, and things are different. The problem is, I don't want to change." It is both the film's most honest moment and the story's greatest admission of guilt.

Ameircan Pie 2 is a lazy rehash of a sporadically funny film, a handful of momentary laughs thrown in the service of repetition -- like your average TV ad. Which is too bad. The best of the teen-angst comedies of the 1980s (Meatballs, almost any John Hughes flick) that Ameircan Pie descended from had unforgettable moments. These were, after all, films that gave us Bill Murray and the Brat Pack. But when the filmmakers aren't even trying, why should we?

click to enlarge Jim (Jason Biggs, right) endures another penis-damaged escapade with his father (Eugene Levy) in American Pie 2.
  • Jim (Jason Biggs, right) endures another penis-damaged escapade with his father (Eugene Levy) in American Pie 2.
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