American Pie Presents Beta HouseReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 12/27/07 15:44:47
So here we are with the third direct-to-video “American Pie” sequel in as many years, and we collectively sigh. Just who out there is not only watching this crap, but finding it enjoyable enough to demand more?It’s no surprise that “American Pie Presents: Beta House” is a lousy movie, cheaply made, unbearable all over. What’s surprising is that the producers seem genuinely interested in keeping the franchise fresh. By this point in a film series, those responsible for it usually have long since abandoned all hope and have grown content in simply churning out stale retreads. For “Beta House,” however, there’s this feeling in the air that screenwriter Erik Lindsay (who also scripted the previous entry, “The Naked Mile”) and director Andrew Waller are honestly trying to both one-up the franchise and please the 15-year-old boys who sneak enough peeks at these flicks to keep the series rolling. Their efforts may lead to little more than an utterly unfunny T&A comedy, heavy on the T, but I suppose they should be commended for trying.
A direct sequel to “The Naked Mile,” “Beta House” finds Erik Stifler (John White) and Cooze (Jake Siegel) returning to the University of Michigan, this time as proud freshmen. Along with Erik’s goofy roommate Bobby (Nic Nac), the guys pledge Beta Delta Xi, run by Erik’s cousin Dwight Stifler (Steve Talley). To join the frat, the pledges must first complete a series of tasks, most of which involve sex (get a stripper’s autograph on your ass, have sex in the library, etc.). Even though the movie is disjointed beyond reason, playing as little more than a series of gross-out (or, barring that, naked breast-centric) comic set pieces, the plot does not actually revolve around these tasks.
No, the bulk of the plot is a bizarre twist on “Revenge of the Nerds,” with a geek-ruled fraternity (lazily called “the Geek House”) as bad guys. This sounds like a clever twist, but as you watch the movie, you discover there’s no cleverness on display. Instead, the whole thing plays like a weird little jock fantasy. In today’s world, the geeks, with their smarts and their computers and their ability to get good jobs, have inherited the earth, and “Beta House” delivers a stinging jealousy over this fact. What a strange, sad worldview: here the jocks are, just wanting to get drunk and get laid, and dammit it if they can’t have a good time without those stupid nerds ruining everything.
(The script itself is clumsily inconsistent. In some scenes, the geeks are mocked as hopeless virgins. In others, they’re derided because they have so much money they’re able to attract all the hot chicks.)
Of course, this being an “American Pie Presents” movie, the geeks don’t really look like genuine geeks; they’re generally handsome chaps who get done up in glasses. Meanwhile, every girl on campus is a sex-crazed bombshell, and every stripper looks like a centerfold. Campus bathrooms, of course, are co-ed, so everyone walks around naked, especially the sex-crazed bombshells.
Yes, but expecting realism from this movie is like attending a Pussycat Dolls concert and wondering why the songs aren’t any good. If we watch the “American Pie” sequels for anything, it’s for the gross-outs, and hats off to Waller and Lindsay for going that extra step. Projectile vomiting, projectile urination, projectile male ejaculation, projectile female ejaculation, and, of course, full frontal she-male nudity are all present in “Beta House,” and if there’s one thing the movie gets right, it’s that it’s continuously upping the ante without ever feeling like it’s straining to do so.
But is that worth praise? Not when the rest of the film is so bumbling. When the filmmakers aren’t trying to out-gross their predecessors, they leave the movie sitting there like dead weight, too tired to do anything but drag its feet to the next man-juice yuk. For all its energy, “Beta House” is as flat and lifeless as the rest of this second-rate trilogy.
For the record, yes, Eugene Levy shows up again, and yes, he’s actually in it a lot longer than he should. (He presides over the Frat Olympics that serve as the movie’s finale.) By now, his work in this franchise has gone past depressing and head-on into dreadful. If someone like Levy can’t escape the vicious circle of these lousy flicks, what hope do we have?A final note. Midway through “Beta House,” Elmer Bernstein’s legendary “Faber College Theme” begins to blare on the soundtrack. Is it really wise for the makers of a campus comedy this poor to suddenly remind viewers that they could instead be watching the best college flick of them all?
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