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Introduction
If one went to a teen oriented movie during the early part of 1999 there was no escaping the trailer for a film called "American Pie". It seemed to be playing in front of every single movie that I saw for a good 3 or 4-month period.  By the time May of that year rolled around I must have seen the trailer in excess of 15 times, as it was around that time that I was going to each movie I really enjoyed multiple times. Arguably the trailer didn't really excite me all that much, it had sort of a low budget teen movie look to it and had a pretty much no name cast. However for whatever reason I was drawn to the film, probably because I was fast approaching the same time in my life. So as luck would have it, I won a double pass to the advance screening and the CD soundtrack. Now I have been to countless advance screenings since that one, but this is one I'll always remember, not only because it was at a theatre way out of my way (and neither my friend nor I could drive at the time) but also the way the theatre handled a problem that occurred. Since both my friend and I were unable to drive I had to coax my dad into driving us (not always an easy task), and he decided to see a movie at the neighbouring multiplex that was located right across the hall. After finding something he wanted to see that worked out time wise all systems were go, and as far as I was concerned nothing was going to ruin my perfect planning. We're watching the movie and are laughing almost non-stop when during the film's prom scene, an alarm or buzzer starts chiming. After about 5 minutes of this someone goes out to complain and then the print stops, the manager comes in and informs us that the fire alarm was triggered and that we'd all have to leave the theatre after receiving free passes. This happens in the last 30 minutes of the movie and is a big disappointment for the crowd. It seems the automation system didn't stop the film. So we all got our free passes but didn't get to see the last 30 minutes of the film (which fans know contains one of the best jokes in the film). As luck would have it this was a Thursday night advance (Wednesday is the more common day for these screenings) and we didn't have to wait long to see the film in general release. Although I never saw the completed film that Thursday, I knew that it would be a huge hit and I was right as it would become one over the next few weeks…

American Pie 2: Unrated
The original film introduced us to a group of friends Jim (Jason Biggs), Kevin  (Thomas Ian Nicolas), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Oz (Chris Klein) who have been hanging out together for as long as they can remember. While they all have their differences their one common thread between is that they all seem to strike out with women. In addition to the core group we have Steve Stiffler (Seann William Scott) who is the party animal who has no respect for women what so ever. Jim is the everyday nice guy who longs for action, Oz is the dumb jock who just can't seem to find the 'right' girl, Kevin is the average normal kid who as luck would have has a steady girlfriend in Vicky (Tara Reid), but she won't let him get past third base. And then there's Finch, the sort of intellectual guy who could really get a girl if not for his somewhat odd washroom habits. Their exploits throughout the first film have them trying to get 'laid' before the end of their senior year, which of course culminates at the Prom. Each of the guys does manage to land a girl as Jim becomes interested in Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) an exchange student while Oz decides that the school choir is an untapped resource and meets Heather (Mena Suvari), while Finch lands the girl of his dreams in Stiffler's mom. Although Jim strikes out with Nadia he does end up with Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) a flute touting band geek. In the end all the guys manage to accomplish their task thus managing to change their lives forever.

Film
"American Pie 2" picks up a year after the original and finds our characters reuniting for a summer of fun. After the prom it seems as nothing much has changed as Jim has been rather unsuccessful with the ladies, and Kevin has broken up with Vicky due to their going to different schools. Heather and Oz have managed to stay together and Stiffler is still going after every floozy co-ed girl he can find. Finch has a number of sexual conquests in a number of public places but none of them have even come close to the experience he had with Stiffler's mom. They are all set for a summer full of house parties when the cops shut them down leaving them without a place to hang. This doesn't last for long as Kevin calls his brother Tom (Casey Affleck) who immediately suggests they go get a beach house on Lake Michigan. Meanwhile Nadia calls Jim to tell him that she'll be there at the end of the summer and Heather goes off to study abroad in France. The rest of the crew heads off to the lake where they take jobs as painters. This serves as the setting for most of the films comedic moments that include a trip to band camp, Finch's obsession with Tantra and a mock relationship between Jim and Michelle. All of which leads up to the big end of summer bash and the arrival of Nadia.

There was no question in my mind going into "American Pie 2" that it would not be at the level of the original film despite the return of almost all of the creative team. Screenwriter Adam Herz who wrote the first film was brought in to expand his characters and take them places he never thought he would need to and he is not entirely successful. Make no mistake that American Pie and its sequel are two totally different films sharing the same character base. "American Pie" was more of a coming of age story for four friends growing up in Anytown USA, and chronicled the birth of their sexual experiences. While it contained numerous scenes of shocking or gross out humour they were interwoven into the story line seamlessly. In this sequel, the story line is basically tossed out the window for a series of non-related gross out gags that just seemed to be inserted randomly. Now I'm not saying the gags aren't funny because a lot of them are. It's just that they with the exception of one scene early on they fail to out do many of the funnier scenes in the first one. I was expecting things to be even more shocking or gross then the first film and was let down a bit in that regard.

One thing that the filmmakers should be commended on is their ability to bring back almost the entire cast, as everyone from the leads to the glorified extras is back here.  Every which way you look in "Pie 2" you'll see a familiar face. In fact the only person I can visually pick out that has been replaced is the "Monkey Guy" who in the original was played by Blink 182 band member Mark Hoppus. Not everyone in the main cast is given much screen time as the story focuses on Jim, Stiffler and Finch and to a lesser extent Michelle and Oz. Shannon Elizabeth's Nadia is basically given a total of seven minutes of screen time during which she leaves her clothes on which will come as a disappointment to many teenage boys. Tara Reid who’s gone on to have a bit of a career is also basically absent, as is Mena Suvari who’s on hand during the first ten minutes and then pops up from time to time when she phones Oz. As for the comments about the acting, since this is the sequel all the principles have their characters nailed down and the acting is generally good given the talent levels of the stars. Jason Biggs will never be a great actor but he does have that everyday man quality to him and in ways reminds me of myself. While Biggs has gone on to do a couple films since the original "Pie", he hasn't really had much luck at the box office. I'm pretty sure he won't go on to have a long career, but he does really embody the sprit of Jim. I saw him on a Canadian late night talk show the other day with Alicia Silverstone promoting their stage production of "The Graduate", which is playing for two week's in Toronto. I wish him luck with that production and if I weren’t all the way across the country I would have made a point to go and see it.  Seann William Scott is an actor who I've slammed time and time again for his bad performances in "Evolution" and "Dude, Where's My Car", and while I didn't like him in either of those films, it's hard not to love him as Stiffler. Seann is Stiffler and Stiffler is Sean. Every time he pops up in a film I'll see Stiffler, which unfortunately doesn't say much for where I think his career is headed. No review of either film would be complete without mentioning Eugene Levy who plays Jim's father. Eugene Levy is a talented Canadian actor who’s been in the business for what seems like forever, and with this film has finally cracked the $1 million dollar salary range. His character was responsible for a lot of laughs in the original and while he isn't used as much here, the material is just as good.

It should be noted that Universal reinstated approximately seven minutes of footage for the unrated version of this film. Basically these are just simple scene extensions and for the most part don't distract from the pacing of the film. The first film, which is also available in unrated form on DVD, only includes an alternate take of the pie scene as well as few additional seconds of footage spread throughout the feature, which to me felt like a cop out. That isn't the case here.

At the end of the day, I still really enjoy "American Pie 2" as a movie. It's not the first film but I never expected it to be. It's generally funny but it does lack the re-watchability factor the first film has. I saw the original countless times in the theatre (probably in the area of 5-7) but after the second or third viewing of the sequel the jokes were getting tired. The original is a film I can watch from start to finish just about anytime and have a good time, while it will no doubt be awhile before I look at the sequel again. Still all parties should be congratulated for making a sequel that is as good as this movie is. They could have really botched this one and doing so would have tainted my memory of the first. While sequels are often made solely for money purposes (and this is certainly the case here) "American Pie 2" is an example of a good sequel, which in Hollywood is rare.

American Pie 2: Unrated
Video
Universal presents "American Pie 2" in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that accurately recreates the theatrical presentation. After what many felt was an overly dark transfer of the original film Universal redeem themselves here. The picture is sharp and crisp for the most part, although some scenes tend to look a bit on the soft side. Colour use is strong with warm and bright colours dominating the transfer.  Black level is nice and consistent but certainly not the purest black I've seen. In the problem department, the disc doesn't suffer from any print scratches. However it does suffer from minor amounts of edge enhancement as well as small amounts of pixelation,which while minor are definitely noticeable. I also noticed some shimmering on the side of a couple buildings. Overall this is an above average transfer for Universal, but in the end it still falls short of their work on the "The Fast and the Furious" which had an absolutely stellar transfer.

Audio
As is the case with the majority (but not all) of their major releases, Universal provides "American Pie 2" with both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround sound mixes. Given that the film is a comedy it comes as no surprise that this disc provides a less then stellar audio experience for the viewer. Sound use is limited to the front channels except for the odd sound effect or musical cue that expands into the rear. Dialogue is clear and easily heard, and is really the dominant factor in the mix. The film's alternative rock soundtrack generally sounds pretty good but is lacking a bit of punch compared to what I remember from the theatrical experience. Songs like Sum 41's ‘Fat Lip’ had a fuller and richer sound on the big screen. Each of the 5.1 audio options sound about the same, and I was hard pressed to find any noteworthy differences between them.  A decent soundtrack without any real problems that, for the most, part accurately recreates the theatrical experience.

Special Features
The original "American Pie" was one of a handful of titles that have been released twice in their DVD's short existence. Arriving first as a Collectors Edition following its theatrical release and then as an Ultimate Edition around about the time this sequel hit the theatres.  While the first release was pretty featured loaded for it's time, it doesn't even begin to measure up to this disc. Although not labelled as an Ultimate edition such this is truly a stacked disc if ever there was one.

Starting things off we have four audio commentaries. Yes that's right folks, American Pie 2 joins "Seven" and "Fight Club" in the elite group of discs with 4 commentaries. While 4 commentaries may seem like nothing on a serious film, for a comedy it's going a bit overboard. They could have combined some of the participants and come up with one or two excellent tracks instead of four pretty good ones. However, that's not what happened here, and so over the course of a couple days I listened to the majority of all four tracks.

In totally random order the first commentary I took a listen to was with director J.B. Rodgers, who provides his second commentary track here. Rogers who is a protégé of the Farrely Brothers (Something About Mary, Shallow Hal) worked on the first film as an assistant director, so he's familiar with the series and ideas. His track focuses on his thoughts and comments on the making of the film, more specifically how he wanted it to be different yet similar to the first, as well as working with the actors and actresses and the expectations of making a film that would live up to the expectations of the fans. Occasionally Rogers falls into on screen narrator mode but he quickly snaps out of it.

Up next we have a commentary with writer Adam Hertz who not only wrote this second film but also penned the original. As the films are very different in style and tone I was looking forward to hear what Adam had to say and he didn't let me down. Adam talks about the differences in the two films, how he continued the evolution of the characters while still remaining true to their original traits. He also speaks about the writing process that he uses to come up with these stories. Adam shows throughout the track that he is indeed a very versatile writer and can write comedy/drama as well as slapstick gross out comedy at the drop of a hat.

The third audio commentary on the disc is with actor Eddie Kaye Thomas whose best known as "Finch". Thomas returns to comment on the second film having shared a track on the original films disc with fellow co-stars Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott. His solo appearance on this track seems a bit odd as he would have been better suited to appear on the other actor’s commentary track. That said he still manages to do the best he can, giving his insights to the series, filming, and the character of Paul Finch. Although he pauses a bit more then I would have liked and covers some of the same ground from the other tracks, the inclusion of his track is still worthwhile and certainly worth a listen for his fans or fans of the film itself.

Finally we have the track that will likely be the biggest hit with fans of the film. Actor Jason Biggs returns to comment on the second film and is joined by first time Pie commentators Thomas Ian Nicolas and Mena Suvari. Those of you looking for in depth insight into the film won't really find any of that in here as this track focuses on the fun and frolic that occurred during filming. Jason and Thomas offer some interesting on set stories and tell the odd joke but the real highlight of this track is Mena Suvari. Suvari's inclusion on this track caught me by surprise, as of all the female characters in the movie she appears the least. However despite her relatively small amount of screen time she dominates this track in every possible way. Her energy level is intense and she's well prepared offering interesting little titbits as well as contributing most of the material that receives the biggest laughs including one moment that should not be missed.   There are some instances of silence that occasionally correspond to the added footage, but this is not always the case. In the end it's a fun track to listen to and one I'll probably revisit sometime in the future.

"The Baking of American Pie 2" is this disc's answer to Universal's usual "Spotlight on Location" and while it has a creative name it's not all that creative with it's content.  Featuring behind the scenes footage, movie footage, and interviews with most of the cast and crew there is no mistaking this for an electronic press kit item made to hype the film. It's good for a single viewing but isn't something I'm liable to look at again.

Many DVD's offer out-takes and while some of them can be funny more often then not they fail to strike a chord with me. This isn't the case with this disc. Apparently this is the official gag reel that played at the cast and crew wrap up party and as such it's definitely cut together a lot tighter then most others. This is something that I can see myself watching time and time again and is just over five minutes of comedic gold.

"Goodtimes with the Cast and Crew" is basically another five minutes of behind the scenes goofiness with all the major principals set to some alternative rock song that I've never heard of.

Deleted Scenes is a collection of scenes that were cut from both the rated and unrated versions of the film. While some of these provide some interesting background information, they weren't really all that funny and would have hampered the pacing of the film which already feels a bit long towards the end. Sadly Universal doesn't allow these to be accessed individually from a menu, but you can bounce between them using the chapter skip feature on your remote control. These run for a total of just over ten minutes.

In an interesting move the next set of features deal with both the sequel and the original film.

Cast Auditions contain brief segments from the original audition tapes used to land Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Shannon Elizabeth, Chris Klein and Eddie Kaye Thomas their roles in the first film.

American Pie 2: Unrated
Your Favourite Piece of Pie is a top ten list of your all time favourite "American Pie" moments. These scenes were voted on over the Internet a few months back and include scenes from both films.

Returning features from the original include "Classic Quotes" and "Musical Highlights" that allow the viewer to jump directly to their favourite line or song in the film.

Also included is the film's theatrical trailer (1.85:1/DD 5.1) with an intro from Jason Biggs and the music video for 3 Doors Down's "Be Like That".

Rounding out the disc we have production notes, cast and crew biographies, DVD-Rom features, a commercial for the American Pie 2 soundtrack as well as the return of the Universal Showcase which this time around features the trailer for the upcoming Matt Damon/Julia Stiles film "The Bourne Identity" with a full-on 5.1 sound mix.

Overall
The original film was a huge surprise hit when it came out back in 1999, going on to earn over a $100 million. The sequel faired even better earning a staggering $45 million opening weekend, which is a record for a comedy. While the film has it flaws, it's still a great comedy and a fitting sequel for one of the film's that re-launched my interest in movies. Universal's DVD offers good but not exceptional audio/video as well as a generous helping of special features. Fan's can also choose their preferred slice with 4 different options for this title, although the unrated widescreen edition seems to be the slice of choice. Recommended.


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