Directed by: James B. Rogers
Written by: Adam Herz
Starring: Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas
College offers anyone the chance to reinvent themselves. The person you were in high school could be irrelevant because you’re entering a world of individuals you have never known you. But even with those glistening promises, reverting back to one’s old tendencies can happen especially when heading home for that first summer. That draws much of the inspiration behind these characters in the sequel of American Pie.
Coming home for the summer grants Jim (Jason Biggs) the opportunity to spend time with his best friends at a lake house. With each of them going through their own relationship and sexual woes, Jim has the opportunity for a second chance with the one who got away, Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth).
Hot off the heels of the original, American Pie 2 held the task of keeping the raunchiness of the first one and the story of these four guys as they continue to grow up. I saw this film many years ago during my adolescence, and just like the first film, it has much more heart than I remembered. Even for many of the perverted aspects, this series of films has to offer, at the very least it shows the growth of these characters, as they learn about their past indiscretions and how they can each do better. That growth occurs for all of the guys except Stifler (Seann William Scott), unsurprisingly, and Oz (Chris Klein). In the case of Oz, his storyline simply halted because his arc pretty much wrapped up in the first film while Stifler solely exists to be the funny deviant one.
For each of the other guys, they go through the progression of learning what they want in a sexual partner and how to just be friends with someone of the opposite sex. The film definitely had its moments to carry the title of American Pie, but it surprised me that the film took the moments to have actual character growth. It would be easy to be cynical about the cute relationship Oz has with his girlfriend who happens to have been studying abroad in Europe over the summer. A guy, who obviously has better looks than the others, and a girlfriend who’s spending the summer thousands of miles away. The creators could have easily discarded that love story to get Oz involved in crazy sex situations, but they knew what worked and it benefitted the entire story.
The main story hovers around Jim, just like in the first film, where Nadia may be on her way to visit him and he needs to prepare to be with her. Much like what Jim has proven to do in every situation, he overthinks it and needs the help of Michelle Flaherty (Alyson Hannigan). Throughout the narrative, they develop a friendship, as she teaches him how to be a better lover in preparation for Nadia. Hannigan puts in another good comedic performance as Michelle and shows that she has great comedic timing.
The rest of the plot was fairly predictable but its lack of cynicism warmed my heart because despite all of their shenanigans, these three guys make great friends for one another. While Stifler exists to simply be a nuisance, a real sweetness exists between the four friends that makes it easy to root for them. It’s what makes this original trilogy of American Pie films much better than the spin-offs that follow. The other films cannot grasp that relationships matter, but they instead focus more on the nudity and trying to push the boundary of how much they can get away with. It works in this film and made it enjoyable for me to rewatch as an adult and not look back at my younger self with complete disgust.
I will speak on this more in my review of American Wedding, but this installment shows that the character of Stifler feels completely unnecessary and demonstrates that the writers do not know what to do with him. He interrupts the best parts of the film to cause mayhem, and it takes away from what actually works in the film. In an effort to be raunchy, it feels that this film would be so much better if they just cut out his scenes completely.
Following up on a cultural touchstone may not be easy but I believe that American Pie 2 slightly improves upon it. By being one of the few installments in the series that does not rely on recording women nude, it focuses more on the characters and the ways they need to grow up because they’re adults now and cannot fall back on their old tendencies.