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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » American Pie Presents: The Book of Love (Blu-ray)
American Pie Presents: The Book of Love (Blu-ray)
Universal // Unrated // December 22, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $36.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted December 17, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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Okay, so we've barely slinked past the minute mark in The Book of Love, and before we even catch the guy's name, he's screwing a peanut butter sandwich and...yeah, let's just say the family dog gets in on the action and leave it right there.

You got it! Yup, it's yet another direct-to-video American Pie sequel: the franchise is ringing in its tenth anniversary with flick number seven, even, and this is the first of 'em to claw its way onto a shiny, newly-minted Blu-ray disc. This one is at least kinda/sorta a return to basics, I guess. David H. Steinberg, the guy who hammered out the story for American Pie 2 -- remember back when these movies were still making the rounds in theaters? -- clacked away at the keyboard for this one. The plot hinges on 'The Book of Love' that was mentioned all the way back in the original Pie. ...and, of course, Eugene Levy's back again to collect another paycheck. The skeleton of a story is even warmed over again -- there's still a hornball prick named Stifler (played here by John Patrick Jordan), you've still got three virginal pals desperately trying to get laid, there's an unattainable dream girl, the...um, other unattainable dreamgirl, and the chaste girlfriend who doesn't want to round all the bases quite yet.

I mean, there's kind of a story churning around here apart from that, but it's a safe bet that you could skip down a paragraph and probably not feel like you're missing out on all that much. Heidi (Beth Behrs) is tired of being shrugged off as an uptight virgin, so she wants to get it over with and have some guy insert Tab A into Slot B already. She confides all this to her way-platonic-pal Rob (Bug Hall). He's been carrying a torch for Heidi forever, and...well, that torch winds up burning down half the library when he waltzes in on her en flagrante almosto during a school dance. Rob and Heidi are both stuck with a couple months of cleanup duty, and while he's chucking out all the water-damaged books, he ::audible gasp!:: stumbles upon The Bible. No, not that Bible -- the Book of Love! The one with decades of tips and tricks of cocksmanship handed down over the ages. Okay, a lot of it's unreadable, but still...there's gotta be enough wisdom lingering around in there to get Rob and his thoroughly undebauched buddies Nathan and Lube (Kevin Horton and Brandon Hardesty) a little action.

The three
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of 'em hack away at it a page at a time. Rob makes a play for his too-cute crush, Lube tries the direct and honest approach with the cheerleader he's been mooning over since she was in pigtails (Jennifer Holland, who I recognized from Zombie Strippers, and that probably says a lot about me as a person), and Nate hopes it'll wear down his way-chaste, bible-thumping girlfriend (Melanie Papalia). Like the guys in the original American Pie, they start off being pretty much clueless about women, wind up being selfish assholes whenever they have a chance to score, bitch and moan because they're the-nice-guy-kind-of-assholes rather than Stifler-grade raging pricks, and eventually wise up that they've been going about this whole thing the wrong way.

...but, c'mon, you're not diving into American Pie 7 for a rich, nuanced story. You're in it for dumb comedy and boobies, and there's two scoops of both. Its sense of humor is kind of room temperature, natch: Mom (Rosanna Arquette) stumbling onto a cum-encrusted sock, Rob puking on some chick's tramp stamp, accidentally broadcasting a graphic chat about sex to a horrified church congregation, a naked guy darting away from a CGI moose, a look-hims-gots-a-boner shoplifting gag at a Victoria's Secret knockoff... Blah. Clunky puns ("Sit-on-my-Facebook"), bad sight gags, stuntcasting like Sherman Hemsley standing in as a priest and Bret Michaels as a douchey, eyelinered rockstar himself, the obligatory third act montage where everyone does an awkward celebratory dance... I mean, it's a movie that overexplains everything to the point that when Rob accidentally sets his pants on fire, he spouts off dialogue like, "Fire! Aaaaah! I'm on fire! Fire! Agh! Fire! It's on me! The fire, I mean! The fire is on me!" Yeah, I can see you're on fire. It's a movie, not some 1940s radio program, remember? I hafta admit that I'm not the 20 year old I was when American Pie first plowed into theaters a decade ago, but numero seven-oh is pretty laughless all around. The only one that really got me was a sight gag with a dead hooker, and really, when is a dead hooker ever not funny? So, yeah: quick stab at advancing the plot, boobs, creaky joke, more boobs, lather, rinse, and repeat.

Um,
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the cast is okay. Of the main bunch, Brandon Hardesty definitely winds up coming off the best, not settling into a shrill Jonah Hill knockoff or just retreading the usual finger-wagglingly-crazy fat friend role. John Patrick Jordan veers way over the top with his grating turn on yet another guy with the last name Stifler, and in case you miss that connection with some of the other American Pie flicks, Jordan works "Stifler", "Stifmeister", or something in that same congressional district into just about every other line of dialogue. Kevin Horton and Bug Hall are okay but feel pretty interchangeable. There was one point halfway through the movie where I kinda confused which of 'em was which, even. The Book of Love doesn't really ask for much more of its actresses than to lift up their tops and do the whole "Spring break, whoo!" thing, and there's a whole lotta that. The female leads all toss out pretty likeable performances, and they wind up having more personality than any of the guys trying to paw at them, really. You might gripe that they're not that sunny-California-impossibly-gorgeous flavor of actress, but they're more than cute enough.

So...yeah. The Book of Love really isn't funny at all, and a lot of it feels like a straight-up retread of the original American Pie, but it's surprisingly tolerable anyway. I wouldn't say I like the movie or anything, but I didn't find myself staring longingly at the "Skip Chapter" button on my remote, so I'll count that as a win. I'll chalk that one up to a reasonably likeable cast more than anything else too. Oh, and The Book of Love definitely got the memo that it's a titty comedy 'cause there's no shortage of nudity here. The weird thing is that this Blu-ray disc piles on an R-rated cut too even though it's a direct-to-video flick. Is there anyone out there who wants a de-tittied titty comedy? They like hearing about boobs but don't really want to look at 'em? Whatever. Doesn't matter. Anyway, the short version...? Kind of an indifferent shrug. "Watchable" is as much of a rave as I think I'm gonna dig up, and The Book of Love is about as low on laughs as it is on originality. Still...you're reading a review of the seventh American Pie flick, so you probably know what you're getting into anyway. Not recommended but not the sort of agonizingly unbearable movie that's really worth steering clear of. I guess that's code for Rent It if you've gotta see it.

You know what? Scratch that. Just watch Sex Drive instead.


Video
Sporting digital photography that's clean, smooth, and reasonably nicely detailed, American Pie: The Book of Love looks pretty solid in high-def. One quick shot in particular seems a bit out-of-focus, and the 1.78:1 image winds up kinda soft and noisy when the lights are dialed down, but none of that's a constant headache. Colors are pretty punchy, there aren't any noteworthy hiccups with the compression, texture and clarity are pretty strong all around...nothing overwhelmingly jaw-dropping but definitely more than good enough.

Both the unrated and rated cuts of The Book of Love are served up in seperate VC-1 encodes on this dual-layer Blu-ray disc.


Audio
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American Pie: The Book of Love belts out a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, and at least to a point, it does take better advantage than most comedies of all the channels scattered in front of it. There's a pretty unrelenting sense of atmosphere -- the creaking metal of locker doors, rustling papers, chatter in the halls, a rowdy crowd at a basketball game, f'r instance -- although the placement of sounds in the mix sometimes seems less than half-thought-out. I mean, there's a bit with Rob tearing off some brown paper wrapping and thumbing through the pages of a book, and although he's sitting squarely in front of the camera, those sounds are lurching from the rears. Those same sorts of missteps are littered throughout the scenes in Rob's pad during the last stretch of the movie. Maybe those were hammered out during Bring Your Daughter to the Mixing Stage Day? No idea. Anyway, the surrounds are generally atmospheric but can be really effective when used properly. Dialogue is mostly rendered cleanly and clearly, although there are a few moments where it struck me as kind of limp and lifeless. There's more than a little heft to the low-end, and with a licensed soundtrack stretching from dance-pop to mallpunk, the bass ranges from tight and punchy to rattling the foundation. Despite that reinforcement in the lower frequencies, the music frequently comes through a little dull, not screaming from the speakers the way I'd expect it to. It's still a decent lossless track, and I'd have said it's better-than-average for a direct-to-video comedy if not for all the mangled stabs at directionality that definitely ding down the overall score.

The Book of Love also piles on lossy DTS 5.1 dubs in Spanish and French. The stack of subtitles includes streams in English (SDH), Spanish, and French.


Extras
Well, I guess you could count Universal serving up both the rated and unrated cuts as extras. Once you stroll past that...
  • Deleted Scenes (11 min.; SD): This reel mostly serves up a couple of extra lines in a bunch of different scenes, but there's also a gag with a condom that seriously almost made me retch, lobbing out another tenuous American Pie connection by introducing Nadia's cousin or something, a vomit-drenched make-out session, a homoerotic payoff to Lube's Benjamin Gambit, and polishing off the Booger subplot.

  • From the Set (19 min.; SD): What's with the title? Isn't pretty much everything in a movie like this 'from the set'? Anyway, this montage breezes through a hojillion alternate improvs, including a few hundred thousand different ways to say "asshole" and "gettin' laid". "From the Set" also serves up a nekkid girl train straight out of Benny Hill, a chick crushing a beer can with her boobs, a condom race, Strip Trivia, topless hula hoopage, a couple of jacuzzi gags, and...why not? Uncle Mike creeping into a bunch of scenes. Lots and lots of boobies here if that's what you've been keeping your fingers crossed for...

  • Gag Reel (4 min.; SD): Along with the usual gaggle of botched lines, goofing around, and uncontrollable bursts of laughter, you also get a peek at a guy's nipples being pinched by a set of dentures in a wizened hooker's right hand, and...yeah, I think that might be a first.

  • On the Set (8 min.; SD): "From the Set"..."On the Set"...yeah, not the most startlingly creative names for these featurettes. Anyway, despite kicking off with an intro
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    claiming that "On the Set" wouldn't be just another standard issue making-of piece, that's...well, what a big chunk of this is. Y'know, behind-the-scenes footage, talking heads chatter about how this is a return to basics...that sort of thing. On the other hand, it also serves up helpful hints for churning out your own scantily-clad fantasy sequence, a cold sore prank, and crafting a sex scene with a peanut butter sandwich, so there's that.

  • Just the Tip: The Love Manual (6 min.; SD): The Book of Love's cast and crew chuck out their own romance tips-'n-tricks, from the usual stuff about confidence and a sense of humor to nuzzling the neck, making it a point not to get drunk before your target, and even specific positions to try out.

  • American Pie-cons (7 min.; SD): This featurette breezes through the parade of cameos in the flick: Christopher Knight, Dustin Diamond, Tim Matheson, Robby Romanus, Kevin Federline, C. Thomas Howell, Curtis Armstrong, and Bret Michaels. (Wait, no love for Steve Railsback?! ::devastated sniffle::) It's a mix of behind-the-scenes footage, quickie interviews, and snippets of dialogue that didn't make it into the final cut.

  • American Pie Trivia (9 min.; SD): Actor Kevin Norton does the whole Regis thing lobbing out multiple choice trivia questions about the franchise to The Book of Love's cast and crew.
Oh, and The Book of Love comes packaged in a glossy and slightly embossed cardboard slipcase.


The Final Word
C'mon, this is the seventh American Pie flick. The smart money says you knew way before you ever clicked on this review whether or not you were gonna fork over twentysomething bucks for it. The Book of Love is really routine but is still passably watchable, and it's not as if you don't know what you're getting into by this point, so I guess I'll just shrug and say "Rent It".
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