The smart comedies of the 80's were left behind in the 90's, in favor of Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler vehicles and a slew of imitations that only hoped to copy their success. Sure, the likes of Ace Ventura and Happy Gilmore were absolutely hilarious, but it was evident that Hollywood was becoming content with settling for comedies that had little to no context behind them. Why? Because they were easy to make - Studios didn't need to find the best writers, they didn't need access to the best directors and they didn't even need to hire a cast of well known actors. With the pulse of comedy fading near the end of the 90's, moviegoers were in desperate need of a film that would deliver the gross out humor and sexual innuendos that were expected, but would also attempt to make the characters relatable at the same time. That film, American Pie, finally came to the masses in 1999, and it was debatably the one film that inspired Hollywood to make the transition once again from bland and pointless comedies, to hilarious films that actually had a story worth telling. Who knows? Without American Pie's release just when Hollywood and audiences needed it the most, popular comedies such as Bridesmaids and The Hangover might never have become a reality.
Of course, it's probably a little too generous of me to give the big wigs in Hollywood credit for realizing a desired shift was needed in comedic film. Now that I look back on it, the concept that drives the development of this film really makes me want to pull my hair out. I mean, American Pie was great because it wasn't just about beer, boobs and partying - It was mostly about that awkward time in life when you're attempting to fit in while also trying to figure out who you are, two concepts that aren't always exclusively mutual when you're a teenager. There was meaning and purpose behind the original's coming of age tale, and what did Hollywood do? They fast tracked a sequel that told a story that didn't need to be told, and in 2001, American Pie 2 hit theaters. I was hoping for something a bit more, but American Pie 2 was sadly the generic sequel I hoped we wouldn't get. It was just a formula of 'more' - More Stifler, more hot chicks, more band camp references, more awkward moments between Jim and his parents, more Sherminator... more everything, regardless of whether it made sense to throw all these ingredients back into the pie or not. Even the webcam scene is recreated for this film, in a way. There's some kind of plot holding it all together, but it all boils down to being some sort of excuse to get the boys back together for another big party, while Jim once again tries to figure out if the girl from band camp is the right one for him.
Of course, that's all on a conceptual level - In practice, American Pie 2 really does succeed at being a much, much funnier film than its predecessor, and that's saying a lot. I've admitted in many of my previous reviews that it really doesn't bother me if a film lacks meaningful context as long as it provides an entertaining experience from beginning to end, and American Pie 2 fits the bill. Despite having that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I was more or less watching the same jokes play out on a larger scale, the increasing hilarity of these familiar situations made me forget about the film's major inherent flaw - That it's an unoriginal sequel to an unoriginal flick. Much like the story itself, the shenanigans that make up a majority of the film feel forced, but I was laughing too hard to even care. Nope, American Pie 2 might not be as moving a piece as the film before it, but it makes up for it with piles of laughs.
Now, if you haven't read my review for the first American Pie, the major problem I had with viewing it on Blu-ray 13 years after the fact, is that I felt it didn't withstand the test of time very well. As the film has aged so have I, and I was no longer able to relate to a bunch of high school guys that were trying to get laid before their prom. Although it seems strange to me, I didn't really have that issue reoccur while watching American Pie 2 - The story takes place a year after the main cast had graduated and spent some time apart, and the party that they're attempting to throw is more or less a big blowout bash for old time's sake, and as a guy who's 30 years old with a wife and kid, I find that experience to be a bit more relatable at this stage of my life. Getting together with old friends once in a blue moon and having the time of your life seems like a realistic thing to do. After all, you spend most of the year taking care of your loved ones and busting your hump at work, and you need a big release once in a while, you know? Since this film takes place away from high school and is more about life with friends and loved ones after the fact, the age barrier that disconnected me with the original American Pie after all this time is no longer a problem, and I think I'll get much more replay value from this sequel as a result.
American Pie 2 may not be as structurally sound as its predecessor, but for me, it's the one serving of Pie that I imagine I'll end up helping myself to time and time again. I mean, this is truly a strange predicament for me as a reviewer - Although I believe American Pie to be the 'better' film of the original trilogy, American Pie 2 is much more fun and doesn't restrict an age limit on its audience. As a result, replay value is going to be infinitely higher for me with this sequel, especially as I get older and decide to revisit the series 10, 20, or even 30 years from now. In this respect, American Pie 2 definitely pulls ahead of its predecessor, despite being built on the shoulders of the original's genius.
The American Pie Blu-ray had a respectable video presentation, and American Pie 2's 1080p, AVC encoded transfer improves on that experience (although the improvement is minor). Black levels are strong and much more consistent than they were with film's predecessor, and crush doesn't really seem to be much of an issue at all. The contrast is also more consistent this time around, as whites in outdoor scenes look much more natural without any blooming effect. Color saturation is also quite strong, making colors look bold but never over-expressed. Skin tones, much like in the first film, can look a tad bit on the warm side at times, but that's more an artistic choice than a flaw of the transfer.
As far as detail goes, there's a fine layer of film grain that can be seen throughout the entirety of the picture, although at times it does look a bit unnatural, as if the encode couldn't fully resolve the grain, because the grain can come off looking a little noisy. There's an impressive amount of hair and facial texturing throughout the movie, but much like the encode on American Pie Universal has seemingly applied a little DNR to smooth things over. That being said, I actually felt like we were seeing a more consistent level of detail in American Pie 2 when compared to its predecessor. It's a shame to see evidence of DNR (digital noise reduction) on any release, but I'm happy to see that Universal is at least showing some restraint in its application lately.
As far as other digital anomalies are concerned, edge enhancement is also seen from time to time, but I've seen far more offensive EE from other releases.
No, American Pie 2 isn't perfect, but it looks a little better than the previous film on Blu-ray, and the video presentation here absolutely blows its DVD counterpart away. Any fan of this film should be fairly satisfied with the presentation on this disc.
This 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track certainly gets the job done and easily bests the DVD, but it's not really that impressive. This is probably due to the mix more than anything though, as surround effects (such as at parties) hardly have pinpoint location and depth precision, and the use of the surrounds are just generally underwhelming as a whole. Despite the rockin' 90's music that gets used throughout the film, I found the music to sound a tad on the weak side and the LFE really didn't give any natural punch when it was required either. Dialogue is crisp and clear and there's really no audible compression issues that come across, but as I said, this mix leaves a lot to be desired, even for a comedy.
-The Baking of American Pie 2 - This is a little over 22 minutes in length, and is put together in a format that's meant to promote the film as opposed to actually taking us behind the scenes. There's fun clips of the film and interviews from the cast and crew, but there's really not much here of interest.
-American Reunion - A Look Inside - This isn't really much of a 'look inside' the new Pie flick. Predictably, it's really just a self-promotional featurette that has some clips of the film intertwined with some 'pat on the back' interviews with cast and crew.
-Good Times with Cast and Crew - This is a montage of numerous video clips of the cast being silly in between and during takes, pieced together over a peppy 90's rock tune. It's pretty funny stuff, and worth a watch.
-3 Doors Down "Be Like That" Music Video
-Feature Commentaries - With Director J.B. Rogers / With Writer Adam Herz / With Cast Members Jason Biggs, Mena Suvari & Thomas Ian Nicholas / With Cast Member Eddie Kaye Thomas - Yes, there are four commentaries on this disc. Whereas the first American Pie puts a whole bunch of people together in a single sitting and provides an entertaining, yet pointless discussion, American Pie 2 separates everyone in an attempt to give us a coherent experience with real information. For the most part, this seems to work as the commentaries are more focused this time around, but the tracks featuring only one or two people are rather dry and let's be honest - Who wants to sit through this movie four times in a row just to hear all the behind-the-scenes stuff? I don't know if I could ever love a film that much...
-Theatrical Trailer (with Jason Biggs Intro)
Both Rated and Unrated versions of the film are available on this release, and American Pie 2 also comes with a DVD and digital copy.
American Pie 2, for all intents and purposes, should have been a weaker film than its predecessor by far. Instead, I actually found the sequel to be funnier and have much more replay value than the original overall. It may sound like blasphemy to some, but unrestricting the age cap by following a story that takes place after high school actually works a great deal. Those that are worried about a film like this withstanding the test of time, I'll say this - I think it has a better shot at doing so than the original Pie flick that started it all. The video quality is fairly decent and blows the previous DVD releases out of the water, although the audio and supplemental material leave a bit to be desired. Recommended.