Since the audience patiently awaiting the release of “”American Pie 2″” probably refuses to read lengthy tomes on the merits of the cinema, let me get right to the point: if you enjoyed the first “”Pie,”” you’re guaranteed to gobble up its superior sequel with a spoon. Those who care to find out why may continue.
It took them two years, but the team behind “”American Pie”” finally figured it out. As successful as the first foray into the heart of the teenage hormone was – it went on to gross over $100 million during it’s U.S. theatrical run – it spread itself far too thin by juggling no less than 13 main characters. I always believed the original bogged itself down in superficial characters we never had time to care about. In theory, the film should have belonged solely to the four friends at the center of the film, but the unfocused farce lost sight of the guys in a sea of semen. While “”Pie 2″” delivers much more of the same sex-soaked “”hilarity,”” it also focuses its lens back on the guys who started it all: long-faced Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), dreamy jock Oz (Chris Klein), eccentric Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and hapless Jim (Jason Biggs). The script, penned by David H. Steinberg and “”Pie”” scribe Adam Herz, accomplishes this by shuttling the female characters from the first film out of the spotlight. They’re not quite afterthoughts, but they’re nowhere near as important as they were in the first jumbled film. At the end of their first year at college, Heather (Mena Suvari) kisses Oz goodbye and embarks on a summer jaunt through Europe, Kevin’s Vicky (Tara Reid) has moved on to another guy (or three), Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) is spending her vacation at band camp (where else?), and Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) is in Manhattan, though she assures Jim she’ll visit him by summer’s end.This leaves the guys, along with frustrated friend Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), on their own, so they opt to rent a cabin on nearby Lake Michigan and make the most of their first summer as college men. The script, however, doesn’t give them much to do. Oz practices overseas phone sex with his absent mate. Kevin characteristically moans and sighs over his blown chances with Vicky. And Finch, preparing for his anticipated reunion with Stifler’s mom (Jennifer Coolidge), discovers the art of tantric sex. Of all of them, it’s Jim who grows up. His quest to sexually satisfy Nadia steers him right into the arms of another, but not before he’s forced to jump through the requisite series of embarrassing scenarios that involve everything from porno tapes and quick-drying glue to a trombone and a retarded summer camper. What more did you expect from a kid who humped pastry?””Pie 2″” starts off with an unsettling sense of deja vu, and you can feel a formula being molded. Eugene Levy appears as Jim’s dad, whose purpose is to create yet another awkward situation for the ill-fated teen. And then the boys are at Stifler’s house for a blowout party, where the memorable semen-in-a-cup-of-beer scene from the first “”Pie”” is unnecessarily outdone. But it tiptoes out of that mold once the guys shed the confines built in the first film and hit the lake. The new scenery allows the reasonably talented male stars the chance to further shape their personalities from traits scarcely established in the original. Or two of them manage to, at least. Oz’s long-distance relationship and Kevin’s pining for his lost love admittedly are the two situations the majority of teens in the audience will identify with. That also makes them, unfortunately, the two most generic, uninspiring situations in the film.Since Stifler lacks the intelligence or drive to mature, that leaves Finch and Jim. One can even argue that with “”Pie 2,”” Biggs’ Jim finally rises to the challenge of being the main character the first film desperately needed him to be. “”Pie 2″” belongs to him and, in turn, the woman he pursues. And the role of Jim remains the one perfectly tailored to Biggs’ naturally sheepish personality, which he failed to duplicate in bombs like “”Loser”” and “”Saving Silverman.”” Who knows? With the next “”Pie”” film – and there’s bound to be another – screenwriter Herz may turn his attention to Finch, a goldmine of idiosyncrasies just begging to be analyzed. Or maybe Kevin will be given a reason to exist, as he lacks one now. Time will tell. Until then, it’s the ability of the four guys to rise above the barrage of bodily fluids required to make a comedy fly in today’s desensitized marketplace that will continue to lure us back. I certainly wouldn’t mind checking back with this crew every other summer to see how far they’ve come.FINAL GRADE: B