Does "American Pie 2" have bad taste, or does it simply taste bad? It's not really that much of a conundrum: The sequel to the 1999 sex comedy, a box-office hit that was marginally appealing despite (or because) of its crude simplicity and teen-angst prurience, is guilty on both counts.
This year's tale of teens driven to distraction by raging hormones is packed with juvenile gags that would barely pass muster in a fifth-grade boys bathroom. And the aftertaste is decidedly sour; the first slice of pie, to its credit, was rather sweet in the innocence and clumsy exuberance of the young adults, and the movie was bolstered by the fresh performances of notable rookies.
The entire cast, including successful first-installment graduates Mena Suvari ("American Beauty," "Sugar and Spice"), Chris Klein ("Election," "Say It Isn't So") and Natasha Lyonne ("Detroit Rock City," "Scary Movie 2"), has been reassembled by a new director, James B. Rogers, for a story as slim as its ratio of laugh-out-loud moments to bits that generate a dumbfounded silence.
The show opens with a bang, literally, as Jim (Jason Biggs), the uptight kid found molesting a baked dessert in the first film, is interrupted by his father (Eugene Levy) while having "goodbye sex" with a willing partner on the last day of their first year at college. Levy, the goofball from "Best in Show" and the old "SCTV" series, is perfect as Annoying Dad, happily dispensing bad advice at the most inopportune moments. Here's hoping Levy got a nice payday out of the deal.
There's a plot, sort of, and it centers on the same question asked, and pretty much answered, two years ago: What will it take for these perpetually horny college kids to achieve sexual intimacy? It doesn't much matter with whom, how, or when, to Stifler (Sean William Scott), the macho, egocentric party boy of the bunch, and the son of a much-admired older woman (Jennifer Coolidge). Eternally in search of a good time, Stifler agrees to play host to klutzy Jim; handsome, soft-spoken Oz (Klein); pompous, aristocratic Finch (Eddie Kay Thomas) and needy Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) for a summer at the Stifler family's beach house.
Imagine the hilarious complications that ensue; that might be funnier than actually enduring what's presented on screen. For instance, watch out for the sequence involving Jim, a porn tape and a tube of superglue. Otherwise he spends most of his time soliciting sexual instructions from his first lover, band nerd Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), and making preparations for the return of foreign-exchange student Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth). Meanwhile, Oz's girlfriend (Suvari) is taking a summer semester in Paris, which allows them to compensate for the separation by attempting phone sex; Finch pines for Stifler's mom, and devotes himself to the study of tantric sex; and Kevin tries his hand at being friends, and nothing more, with Vicky (Tara Reid), his high-school girlfriend.
"American Pie 2" is full of lame, unfunny and distasteful moments, including a wrinkle that has Jim masquerading as a mentally handicapped trombone player. The chief offender is a salacious segment featuring two young female roommates who turn the table on the spying boys; the women agree to kiss and fondle one another if Stifler, Jim and Oz will do the same. Sexy or trashy? You decide.