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To me, the American Pie Trilogy will always remain a landmark in the adolescent gross-out movie genre. The films were released at a time when I had just completed school, settled into university and made plans for my career respectively. It is therefore easy to observe the parallels between the trilogy and my own journey into adulthood. Although much of the humour is admittedly crude and predominantly involves embarrassing sexual predicaments, the underlying emotions are neatly woven to provide an accurate portrayal of today’s young adults. The Weitz brothers’ subversive revival of the teen movie genre unashamedly introduced a group of vulgar yet affectionate characters and resulted in a suitably concluded trilogy. However just when you thought it was over, be prepared to listen to James’ infamous anthem “Laid” one last time (hopefully).

American Pie Presents: Band Camp

Film


American Pie Presents: Band Camp is a spin-off that focuses on Matt Stiffler (aka Steve Stiffler’s little brother). Stiffler’s lust for mischief and practical jokes earn him a ticket to the ultimate punishment – a trip to band camp during the summer. However Stiffler has an ulterior motive; he is going to exploit the crazy sexual incidents by placing hidden cameras all around the camp. Once he has sufficient footage, he intends to edit everything into a “Bandies Gone Wild” video. After a series of voyeuristic events, Stiffler rediscovers the charms of his childhood sweetheart, Elyse, who happens to be team leader and greatly yearns for a music scholarship. The mischievous pervert must now decide between his video footage and his high-school romance.

Forgive me for stating the obvious but to green-light a fourth American Pie title was a redundant idea from the very beginning, at least in terms of artistic merit. But then, since when did movie executives care about the quality of their title? The motives behind Band Camp are solely commercial - it is a lazy, sleazy attempt at generating those revenues; targeting helpless, immature teenagers who really should know better.

Perhaps the most unforgivable mistake is hiring Tad Hilgenbrinck to replace Eli Marienthal as Stiffler’s brother. They two actors look and sound nothing alike and this immediately creates a huge discontinuity between the fourth instalment and the first two titles. Instead, Hilgenbrinck comes across as a desperate Seann William Scott impersonator who tiresomely repeats familiar foul-mouthed monologues. Imagine someone getting drunk at a party and reciting Stiffer lines very badly – that is kind of situation the viewer has to endure. Retrospectively, almost every joke is a poor regurgitation of the trilogy and has painfully been spread out over extended periods. Characters unnecessarily swearing and being morons are sadly just not funny anymore, to the extent where sympathy is felt towards the performers.

American Pie Presents: Band Camp
Furthermore, Stiffler is not only portrayed as a troublemaker but is also a bully – quite how anyone is supposed to like this character is beyond me. Strangely enough, the actor maintains a somewhat skinny physique, so it is surprising to see teenagers take orders from such a weakling. With the exception of Eugene Levy and Chris Owen as Jim’s dad and Sherman respectively, none of the original cast members have returned for Band Camp. Many are in fact relatively unknown and newcomers with horrendously wooden acting skills. Even Levy and Owen are tragically wasted, where Jim’s dad is a mentor to the young Stiffler but the chemistry is absent. The Shermanantor may have been amusing at first but the joke is now long wearing thing.

Part of the appeal with American Pie is that it was unexpectedly explicit – the nineties had really diluted teen movies for a PG-13 audience. Whilst Band Camp is undeniably R-rated material, it is by far the tamest of the four films, relying on consistent swearing and unfunny innuendos to generate the shock value. It is unclear whether the UK release is the R-rated or unrated print. However judging by the runtime, I am estimating that it is the R-rated cut, as the content is neither explicit nor offensive.

Band Camp follows the same structure that is typical of mainstream Hollywood romantic comedies. It is almost a reworking of such titles as Hitch and What Women Want - where despite their radical differences, an unlikely couple begin to fall in love before their relationship is shattered by recently surfaced information. This is a prime example of clichéd Hollywood garbage, recycling mundane plots and throwing in seriously predictable outcomes. Whilst Band Camp’s morals are certainly praiseworthy, they are vulnerable to being misinterpreted by the film’s target audience. The fundamental message is to be proud of your individuality, which is rather fitting for those who have low self esteem and are conscious of their image. Conversely, it is rather misleading when unbelievably gorgeous girls are falling for characters that are potentially outcasts. In the real world, do girls fall for stalking remote controlled robots handing out drinks? There are so many absurd instances that illustrate manipulative attraction between the two sexes that the charm exhibited in the original trilogy is now truly lost.

Due to the sheer magnitude of flaws, it would perhaps be easier to comment on the positive aspects of the film. The only admirable qualities that I found enjoyable were the big band numbers; some of the rock covers were quite nicely done – especially the band’s rendition of James’ “Laid.” Aside from that, this is quite possibly the most useless production of 2005 and is guaranteed to destroy the American Pie franchise.

American Pie Presents: Band Camp

Video


Band Camp is presented in an anamorphic widescreen format, maintaining an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. As expected from a recent production, the transfer is in pristine condition – employing lush, solid tones and immaculate detail levels. The outdoor scenes are visually ravishing but manage to keep a healthy pallet, never exaggerating the natural greens from the agriculture. Shadow details are well presented with plenty of clarity and wholesome blacks. There is noticeable grain but the major fault appears in the form of heavy edge-enhancement, surrounding every character, prop and background in ugly halos.

Audio


There are two English tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. Both are powerful mixes, pushing the audio with tremendous force and precision. The rears are constantly alive with ambient noise, comprising of background chatter, woodland animals and crowd cheers. Perhaps the greatest achievement is with the music, in particular the numerous big band numbers that demonstrate careful audio separation. Certain interludes are given greater emphasis on selected channels to create a brilliant musical fusion. The DTS option is once again favourable with its more aggressive execution and a wider dynamic range, ensuring a deliciously fulfilling experience.

American Pie Presents: Band Camp

Extras


Interestingly, Universal have provided a wealth of supplementary materials – many of which are superior to the film. Firstly there are outtakes that reveal many missed lines, premature giggles and scenes going wrong. Some are reasonably amusing but others remind the viewer how abysmal the film truly is.

A deleted scenes montage follows next, containing segments that were quite rightfully removed but some were inserted during the closing credits. Nearly every scene provides additional information that is completely unnecessary, as the audience should be capable of deciphering the onscreen events. It would appear that these chapters have been omitted at an early stage, as there is no music and the audio and visual quality is rather rough.

Band Camp Dirty Diary features leading stars Tad Hilgenbrinck and Arielle Kebbel, as they film a diary of the entire production using handheld cameras. It is interesting that Hilgenbrinck mentions his likeness to Seann William Scott and how he landed the role. Everyone is seen having a lively time, sharing laughs and providing quick thoughts. The cast members are briefly interviewed and are asked to interpret such sexual innuendos as “prepare to jam with the bearded clam” and “crust bucket.” There are some peculiar moments involving fake vomit and musical instruments. Kebbel attempts to embarrass her co-star Hilgenbrinck at one point, intruding on a scene where he gets intimate with an oboe. Towards the end, as production begins to wrap, the cast are clearly upset that everything is coming to a close.

The absolutely stunning Rachel Veltri and Angela Little take the audience on a set tour, exploring the entire campground from the dormitories to the indoor backlots. Watching this makes one realise how clever filmmakers can be in making seamless location changes. The girls even find time to rake through the wardrobe and pass their comments on the costumes. They will probably never make good TV hostesses, consistently giggling like a couple of annoying freshmen. Although to be honest, I had my eyes focused on their admirable curves more than anything else.

  Secret Rovercam Footage comprises of shorts featuring the Band Camp characters. Basically, the film’s remote controlled robot captures voyeuristic footage of the bandies socialising, gossiping and attempting to woo the opposite sex. Whilst certain sketches are fairly dreadful, there are some that manage to raise a smile. I particularly enjoyed watching the sections with Jimmy Chong – the Asian kid who thinks that he is black.

Lastly we come to the greatest (and most pointless) piece of supplementary material ever - Baby Got Back Music Video, which as the title suggests is a music video of the Sir Mix-a-lot track. The screen is decorated with girls wearing very little, shaking their scrumptious behinds and getting soaked in the shower – all in the name of entertainment.

The menus are incredibly bland, pretty lifeless in comparison with the region one counterpart. Thankfully there are optional English subtitles for those who require them.

American Pie Presents: Band Camp

Overall


It comes as no surprise that there is precious little to recommend in this particular American Pie outing. Band Camp is fuelled by weak scatological gags in an attempt to be crude and graphic. Instead the audience is tormented by unimaginative writing and scenes that drag on until they are no longer humorous. Tad Hilgenbrinck is essentially a Seann William Scott impersonator, who fails to ignite the film with any charm or charisma. It is a safe bet to assume that the American Pie franchise is now well and truly diminished.


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