Directed by: J.B. Rodgers
Starring: Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Eddie Kaye Thomas
When you've built a surprise summer hit out of the precarious premise of one's "first-time," an impossible question looms: What can you possibly do for a follow up? The makers of American Pie 2 don't waste their time trying to answer that question. Unlike its predecessor, the second helping of American Pie doesn't include plot anywhere in its ingredients. What is served up instead basically amounts to a curtain-call performance for the original's returning cast. On the table is nothing that improves, adds or builds upon the first American Pie, but Pie 2 does reprise all the show-stopping sight gags that propelled the original to more than $100 million in domestic box office sales and left many audiences craving more. American Pie 2 takes place one year after the first one ended. Geeky Jim (Jason Biggs), jockish Oz (Chris Klein), level-headed Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and oddball Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) -- the group of guys who made a pact to get laid by their senior prom -- are now fresh out of their first year of college. Like Pie 2's screenwriters, these buddies aren't looking for anything new; they just want to relive the good times from high school. They rent a beach house for the summer, bring along party boy Stifler (Seann William Scott), and sit back and wait for more sexual escapades to occur. That setting is all director J.B. Rodgers (Say it Ain't So) needs to trot out the kind of gross-out scenarios that were the original's main draw. Fans of such humor will be happy to discover that you can take any of the over-the-top jokes contrived by the first Pie and find its equivalent here (and yes, the trademark apple pie does make an appearance, although you might miss it if you blink during the first five minutes). Pie 2 has another good thing going for it, and that's the return of its entire original cast -- an impressive feat for the producers, given the typecasting such stereotypical roles will inflict on Pie's previously unknown bunch. All the humor that works in American Pie 2 plays off the familiarity audiences have developed with its one-note characters. The movie's tagline says "people change," but in the case of this bunch, everyone stays the same. The problem is that the movie is so preoccupied with building up to the next big sight gag, there's not nearly enough time for everyone to contribute. It's painfully obvious that American Pie 2 was edited based on the responses of test-screen audiences (one new character, Stifler's father, was completely cut out because he didn't score well in test screenings). Some of Pie's best actors and most human characters (Klein, Mena Suvari, Natasha Lyonne) are reduced to a few meaningless lines in favor of crowd-pleasers such as Jim and Stifler. That's not always a bad thing. Scott plays the sex-crazed, self-obsessed Stifler with such exuberance that he manages to keep the movie entertaining despite some truly vapid acting and dialogue surrounding him. In a summer dominated by brand loyalty (think Jurassic Park, Rush Hour 2 and a "reimagining" of Planet of the Apes), American Pie 2 will likely be as big a hit as its predecessor. But for movie fans (myself included) who enjoyed the original for its modern spin on the classic coming-of -ge genre, this pie tastes bland. At its core (pun intended), American Pie at least attempted to provide an original glimpse into our culture's timeless, ridiculous and often hilarious rites of passage. With this pre-packaged sequel, you can still laugh at the antics of the protagonists, but there's little new material to be found.