American Pie Presents Band Camp

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 12/30/05 21:40:34

"It makes 'Bring It On Again' look like 'Slap Shot 2.'"
1 stars (Sucks)

Let us consider for a moment the career of Eugene Levy. Ever since “American Pie” allowed him to rise from recent obscurity, he’s been on a runaway train of comic supporting roles in increasingly worse films: “Bringing Down the House,” “Dumb and Dumberer,” “New York Minute,” “The Man,” “Cheaper By the Dozen 2.” Sure, he’s had fabulous appearances in the occasional Christopher Guest comedy to reassure us, but those have been overshadowed by the mounting number of easy money flicks. Here is a brilliant performer who’s letting himself take the easy route down the crapper, apparently blind to the amount of waste around him, content with riding repeatable one-note roles to payday. In many respects, he’s a modern day Leslie Nielson, once highly dependable, now embarrassingly unwatchable. And this is coming from someone who considers himself a Levy fan.

Anyway, this tirade brings me to “American Pie Presents: Band Camp,” a direct-to-video sequel/spin-off that’s even more clunky and pointless than its clumsy title. Levy, who slogged through the rote-but-kinda-funny “American Pie 2” and the unwatchable “American Wedding,” returns yet again as Jim’s Dad, only without Jason Biggs to round out the comic duo. He’s given the same (now tired) shtick: react ever-so-casually to the sexual insanity of the teenagers around him. The sweet, honest relationship the character had with his son is now completely absent, replaced by a strained plot point that places him as morale officer/counselor at the old high school’s band camp - in other words, it’s all the Levy reaction shots, only with other kids and zero tenderness.

It’s also just one of many stretches screenwriter Brad Riddell and director Steve Rash are required to make in order to keep the franchise alive. We meet Matt Stifler, Steve Stifler’s younger brother, a kid who’s just as obnoxious as the Seann William Scott character was in the first three films. What the series’ producers have obviously forgotten is that Stifler was not a main character, just a dopey comic relief; his popularity from the original film had a Fonzie effect, meaning that just as Henry Winkler’s “Happy Days” character went from a sidekick to the main attraction, Stifler got more attention as the series progressed, never mind how inessential he is. And now we get Stifler, Jr.

Tad Hilgenbrink, by the way, is the newcomer given the role of the younger “Stiffmeister.” He landed the role because a) he can pull off a convincing (if equally irritating) impersonation of Scott’s hyperbolic performance in “American Wedding,” and b) he’s willing to show his naked rear end for comic effect. The end result is exactly like watching the actor hired to pretend to be Jim Carrey in “Dumb and Dumberer.” And considering how nobody can remember that poor schmuck’s name, it would seem like doing cheap impressions of familiar roles in asinine sequels nobody really wanted isn’t the best career move.

Anyway. The plot finds Matt Stifler getting busted ruining a graduation ceremony (a gag that involves pepper spray, genitalia, a water fountain, and the first of many naked butt shots - a collection that is even less funny than it sounds, if such a thing is possible); he is then sentenced by the school’s guidance counselor (Chris Owen, making a sad-but-brief cameo) to spend the summer at band camp. Convinced that all band students are deviant nymphomaniacs, Matt decides to sneak in some hidden cameras, catch the dirty action, and make a “Girls Gone Wild”-esque video.

Let’s stop for a second to ponder the course of the whole band camp idea. If you recall, the “one time at band camp” line from the original film was an elaborate set-up to a quick, vulgar punchline that worked entirely because of its unexpected nature. Apparently unfamiliar with the workings of comedy, the series’ producers insisted on milking this gag, first with an extended band camp plotline in “Pie 2,” and now here, with an entire movie devoted to the idea. I suppose we can be thankful that they didn’t obsess over the idea of molesting pastries instead, and little Stifler didn’t wind up in “American Pie Presents: Bakery Internship.”

Back to the story, if we must. Riddell had a million story ideas from which to choose, but sadly, he picked the most clichéd ones of all. You see, at this band camp, several schools compete in a summer-long competition (complete with a scoreboard that somehow tracked the points, although the method of scoring remained entirely incomprehensible to me). And yes, the rival band is led by a snooty millionaire, who keeps popping up to ridicule our heroes, the likable leaders of the East Falls High band. Oh, and along the way, Stifler will learn his lesson, realize he’s in love with the drum major, and start working for, not against, the geeks - a relationship that just might fall apart if someone were to discover his abandoned hidden camera project.

If this plot outline is making you sigh heavily, maybe even roll your eyes or rub your forehead in disbelief, imagine what reactions it will produce on someone actually having to watch it unfold. The horror.

Of course, the main pain of “Band Camp” is not its by-the-numbers story or its one-dimensional characters, but its seemingly unending attempts at gross-out humor. In addition to the pepper-on-the-groin routine, we get a penis stuck in an oboe, more rear nudity, two separate bits involving ipecac, and the pièce de résistance, a prolonged scene involving ejaculate disguised as sunscreen. Egad, indeed. And because this is apparently not enough, Stifler is required to produce such fluids while standing in the world’s filthiest bathroom stall, enormous feces included. Wow.

It’s as if somebody ran a contest to produce the world’s least funny gross-out humor combined with the world’s most hackneyed storyline. Or, more likely, it’s as if somebody was given the task of pumping out a rush-job direct-to-video sequel, and that somebody was completely ignorant to why the first “Pie” worked, thinking all you need are boobies and poop (the “oos,” they call it in the biz). And this being produced by Universal, there’s also an unrated edition, with more boobies and more poop, because this is apparently what executives at Universal think we all want to see.

But does anyone really want to see a moronic, cheapie sequel/spin-off to a flailing series? I haven’t met one person yet who can answer yes to this question, but I must assume that a few of these people are out there. And they will get exactly what they deserve: a dismal, incompetent, unwatchable mess of a comedy-wannabe, shoved out to make a quick buck on name recognition.

As for Eugene Levy? Seriously, Mr. Levy, as a longtime fan, I urge you to fire your agent as soon as humanly possible. At this rate, you’re bound to pop up in the straight-to-video “The Man 2: Gettin’ Jiggy!” in a year or two.

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