American Pie 2 (Unrated Collector's Edition) Review

The Film

Upon its release in 1999, the first American Pie film was acclaimed, both for its ingenious set pieces (including, infamously, baked goods, the Internet and television pornography), and also for its more subtle and poignant exploration of themes of friendship, maturity and sex with older women. Well, maybe not the last, but it was still a blessed relief from the kind of witless gross-out comedies that had been cynically pedalled by talentless hacks (coughScaryMoviecough) under the impression that lampooning other films would somehow endear themselves to audiences. However, all successes need a sequel, and thus we have this one, which proudly boasts how all the original cast returns; the absence of the Weitz brothers, the director and producer of the original, is more keenly noted.

The plot is lightweight stuff. The gang from the original, including Jim (Biggs), Finch (Thomas), Oz (Klein) and, of course, Stifler (Scott) have returned from university, where they are all coping with various sexual neuroses, ranging from separation from their partners (Suvari) to an inability to get over their exes (Reid). The gang travel to a beachhouse, where they are involved in hilarious exploits and try to assess their lives. And that, essentially, is it.

In my review of Legally Blonde, I criticised the makers for failing to succeed even at the basic level that they set themselves. Certainly, the makers of this film succeed at making an amusingly lowbrow comedy film, with probably about the same number of laugh-out-loud set pieces as the original. There are some wonderfully inspired moments here, especially any scene with the superb Eugene Levy as Jim’s father; a 50-year old stand-up comedian would be an odd candidate to steal what is, essentially, a teen movie, but Levy is quite wonderful throughout (and, in this ‘unrated’ version, he has a superb moment in a hospital where he gets a speech that comes close to Heathers’ infamous ‘I love my dead gay son!’ utterance.) The ensemble from the first film have all returned, and the weaker links from before, such as Reid and Klein, have sensibly been downplayed in favour of more Stifler, who is Levy’s only rival in terms of scene stealing. Scott is a marvellous comic actor, with the sort of timing that means that any joke, regardless of how obvious, is somehow elevated by having him involved.

The film’s problems are, therefore, more disappointing than you might imagine. As a stand-alone comedy, this is absolutely fine, and highly enjoyable stuff. Yet it misses the underlying poignancy of the original, brushing aside occasional moments of introspection in favour of more- often very funny- gags; unfortunately, this means that any underlying interest that a viewer might have in the characters is likely to have been established in the first film, rather than this one. The only character who is fleshed out fully is Michelle, the geek who ‘gets nasty when she’s horny’; Hannigan, who is shaping up to be a fine comic actress, manages to effortlessly shift tone between comedy and drama, often in the same scene; a typical example is when, late in the film, the audience is required to laugh at a joke about anal sex and then sympathise with the character seconds later. Thanks to Hannigan, the scene works, but it’s still an abrupt change.

This is a highly entertaining film, with a lot of very funny moments (although the central scene involving suspected lesbians, CB radios and hiding in wardrobes occasionally smacks of faint homophobia); all the same, it’s simply not as good as the original, which will, eventually, come to be seen as the benchmark by which films of this type will be judged, thanks to its atypically intelligent script and strong characterisation, factors largely lacking here.

The Picture

A slightly disappointing effort from Universal for such a new film, the transfer is frequently garish and excessively bright, with skin tones looking closer to orange than anything else in several scenes, as well as some noticeable edge enhancement throughout. Obviously, this is not a bad transfer per se, but it’s not half as good as their terrific work for The Fast and the Furious, which may well be seen as one of the best transfers on disc; this, unfortunately, will not. The plethora of audio tracks may well be to blame.

The Sound

The soundtrack sounds just about identical in both Dolby and DTS; some of the rock songs sound slightly heavier in DTS, but the casual viewer is unlikely to be especially bothered by the differences. This is hardly the most exciting of discs sonically, but there’s some nice use of the surrounds from time to time, and dialogue and sound effects are always clear and well presented.

The Extras

Right, I’ll admit it: I’m sick of Universal’s ‘Collector’s Editions’. Despite early discs that were utterly superb, such as The Mummy or the original Psycho, their recent releases seem to be little more than a weak compilation of EPK material, coupled with tiresome commentaries and pointless ‘special special features’. Here, we have some of the most redundant features I have yet to see on a DVD. The four commentary tracks are incredibly irritating, because it’s obvious that they could happily have been rolled into one without any loss of information. The director’s track is monotonous, dull and self-congratulatory; the writer’s track is pointless, frequently silent and frequently obscure in nature, and the two actors’ tracks suffer from the usual flaws of putting actors into commentary tracks; they do little more than repeat well-rehearsed anecdotes about what a great time they all had, etc, etc. In all fairness, Eddie Kaye Thomas’ track is quite amusing, if frequently silent, but it’s not a captivating listen for nearly two hours.

The rest of the features- all on one disc, which is either a commendable or a stupid move, depending on whether you prefer bitrate or convenience of access- are a mixed bag. The deleted scenes are all fine, with some amusing moments scattered amongst them, and at least one moment that approaches the poignancy of the original when the gang return to school to find that, unsurprisingly, things have changed. Unfortunately, all the other features are of less interest, apart from a witty (and self-referential) Easter Egg and some brief but amusing casting tapes for the original film. The ‘making-of’ featurette, behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes are all vaguely amusing, but repeat more or less the same material in all programmes; the music video and trailers are standard fare (although the trailer has a fun Jason Biggs intro), and I’m not even going to bother mentioning the endless ‘best quote/scene/song’ features which are essentially glorified scene selections. Not, then, an especially exciting load of extra features.

Conclusion

A very entertaining but slightly hollow film is released on a disc that has some surprisingly large problems with it, both in terms of picture and extras. Recommended wholeheartedly if you enjoyed the original, but, unlike Clueless or Ten Things I Hate About You, it’s simply not witty or intelligent enough to convert people who would normally stay well clear of a film of this type.

Film
7 out of 10
Video
7 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
5 out of 10
Overall

7

out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 18:20:49

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