With the likes of the Farrelly-produced Say It Isn't So and Tom Green's Freddy Got Fingered proving box-office blow-outs Stateside, it was starting to look like the gross-out had farted its last. But when American Pie 2 topped the US chart on its release, there were whispers that, perhaps, the genre had some gas left in it.
Yet the success of the original wasn't so much to do with the jizzy-beer, crusty dick and laxative yukkers as with the fact that writer Adam Herz gave the women as much influence as the men, perfectly portrayed teenage sexual hang-ups, and created some likeable and rounded characters in the process. So the main appeal of the sequel is simply that we get to spend more time with the same gang.
The trouble is, American Pie 2 strains so hard to recreate the spirit of its predecessor that you can almost hear the off-camera grunts of exertion. The reason why the conclusion of the first movie was so surprisingly touching was that these friends had understood that it was time to move on, that their high-school days could never be recaptured. Well, guess what? This next installment is entirely about them trying to recapture those days: so the anal Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) still obsesses about Stifler's Mom (Jennifer Coolidge), Jim (Jason Biggs) is panicking about an upcoming tryst with the gorgeous Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) can't cope with "just being friends" with Vicky (Tara Reid), and so on. These aren't people who've grown up or been changed by their first year of college - they've simply been put on hold.
Of course, it's great that all the original cast have been reunited, and even better that Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) is fleshed out as far more than a geek who "gets nasty when she's horny". But it's telling that the remainder of the female cast are pushed aside, and that, discounting Jim, the character given the most time is the moronic, misogynistic Stifler (Seann William Scott).
The first movie showed that it knew the difference between being outrageous and being offensive. Here, Herz has at times confused the two. One instance involves digs at the mentally challenged, while another, which sees three of the boys forced to trade same-sex pettings with a pair of hot women, is borderline homophobic. Because, like, lesbians only exist for men to get off on, right?
There are a smattering of laughs to be had elsewhere, and Biggs, Hannigan and Eugene Levy (as Jim's dad) are excellent. But that's simply not enough. There's no escaping the fact that this is a very lazy and misconceived sequel - a far more apt title would have been American Pie: Reheated.
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Writer Adam Herz tries too hard to top the original American Pie, leaving a plot which is merely a retread and gags that, for the most part, are either too stale or go too far. There are a few mirthsome moments, but not enough to make this a worthwhile follow-up.