Universal // 2009 // 92 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // December 22nd, 2009
The most outrageous slice of Pie yet!
In 1999, the original American Pie came along and single-handedly revived the long-dormant teen sex comedy genre. Now, 10 years later, the umpteenth spinoff American Pie Presents: The Book of Love comes along to confirm that the genre is once again dead.
Three Michigan high school students, Rob (Bug Hall, The Stupids), Nathan (Kevin M. Horton, Big Game) and chubby Lube (Brandon Hardesty, Bart Got a Room) are desperate to lose their virginity. Sound familiar? With a little help from a book they uncover at the school library (the same sex manual first seen in American Pie), the boys set out to do just that: Rob with pretty, sweet Heidi (Beth Behrs, Serial Buddies), Nathan with reformed virgin/girlfriend Dana (Melanie Papalia, Postal) and Lube with head cheerleader Ashley (Jennifer Holland, Zombie Strippers). Will it be at the big dance? The big party? The big ski trip? Does anyone care?
Once upon a time, when comedies first started being released under the National Lampoon banner, it meant something. The Lampoon was an established property; it had developed a reputation and a specific comedic style that one hoped would translate to film (and, for a while, did). American Pie, you are not a brand name. You were a single, mostly average movie followed by lesser sequels. I stayed with American Pie through the first and second films. I weathered American Wedding. I even checked out the first of the in-name-only spinoffs, American Pie Presents: Band Camp, but only because a girl I went to high school with got naked in it. Like everything else in the movie, it was disappointing.
This means I didn't see American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile or American Pie Presents: Beta House or American Pie Presents: The Big Cash-In or American Pie Presents: Generic Teen Actors Have Sex with Food Big American Party!. Luckily, I was able to drop in on the "brand's" newest release, American Pie Presents: The Book of Love without missing a beat. The movie isn't so much a spin-off as it is a remake of the original film, cross-pollinated with a remake of the under-seen-and-appreciated '80s sex comedy The Last American Virgin. That it's not as good as either of those films should come as no surprise. That it's actually no good at all should come as no surprise, really. It's the fourth or fifth spin-off of a series that had already worn out its welcome. It didn't stand a chance.
For the most part, The Book of Love is a straightforward teen sex comedy about insecure boys desperate to lose their virginity -- just like the first film in the franchise. But where that film's attitudes about sex seem sweet and quaint in retrospect, this film feels positively dirty and mercenary. There is no revelation that "sex is no big deal." Even a climactic speech, where a dork professes that he likes a girl for who she is and not because she's the head cheerleader, ends with him promising to be great in bed. It all comes down to sex; relationships are either an afterthought or non-existent. Through all of this are the now-predictable "outrageous" comic set pieces, ranging from a boy having sex with a peanut butter sandwich (being finished off by his dog, and all caught on video!) to a character being violated by the least-convincing CGI moose you'll ever see. The low point comes when one of the teenage boys goes to visit a prostitute (who turns out to be very OLD and who removes her FALSE TEETH! HAHAHAHAHA!!) who dies while performing a certain sex act, and whose lifeless body is repeatedly punched and kicked in an effort to remove her from the boy's privates. It's tasteless and hatefully misogynistic on a level that doesn't belong in any film, much less a lighthearted teen sex comedy. Think it's funny? Oops, you belong in jail.
While lead actor Bug Hall (that's the man's name; I'm not making it up) makes an appealing enough hero and Beth Behrs is an adorable actress with a big, toothy smile, it hardly makes up for the roughness of the rest of Book of Love's the cast. Brandon Hardesty plays a character named "Lube" with no evidence of charisma -- even for the guy in the "chubby friend" role. The fact that his name is Lube ought to clue you in as to what the filmmakers find funny. Eugene Levy's participation in yet another American Pie movie makes my soul die a little; I know the guy wants to get paid, but by now he's really testing the limits of our good will towards him. Rosanna Arquette is on hand in the thankless "mother" role just to remind us that even at her current age, it would be much better to watch a movie about her and her sexuality than a bunch of generic twentysomethings posing as high school students. John Patrick Jordan, playing yet another Stifler (it's never explained if he's another younger brother or what; I guess it's just assumed that there has to be an a-hole in an American Pie movie and his name has to be Stifler), demonstrates that Seann William Scott's performance in the original films was actually a master class in understatement and nuance by comparison. The whole endeavor plays very much like and episode of Saved by the Bell: The New Class, where we get generic new faces filling in the empty slots left by characters we knew and liked. That would make Eugene Levy Mr. Belding.
American Pie Presents: The Book of Love arrives on Blu-ray in an attractive 1.78:1 1080p transfer. The bright, clean photography of the American Pie films has always been one of the series' strongest suits, and Book of Love continues that trend. Skin tones look good, colors pop and there's enough detail to justify the HD transfer. The DTS-HD audio track does fine by the inane dialogue and gives some pop to the many recognizable songs on the soundtrack (half or more of the film's budget had to go towards music, with songs by Katy Perry, Fallout Boy and, in what was one of the most heartbreaking moments of 2009, "Say Yes" by Elliot Smith. Who is managing his estate, and do they think he would be happy to have one of his most beautiful songs appearing in American Pie Presents: The Book of Love? Is it possible for someone to stab himself in the chest twice?), but hardly makes the most of the HD capabilities. That summarizes the disc as a whole, really; it's not objectionable, but I can't imagine that movies like this are the reason Blu-ray came along. It's overkill, and a waste of the format.
There are two versions of The Book of Love presented on the Blu-ray. The Unrated version runs two minutes longer than the R-rated, though I can't compare the differences between the two; I didn't watch the 92-minute "rated" version, because why would I? There's a collection of worthless deleted scenes and a gag reel that isn't very funny, plus a behind-the-scenes featurette and something called "On the Set," which is basically a collection of alternate takes and shorter excised material. This last feature will hold great appeal for the audience of the film, as it consists mostly of naked females. You might think when making a sex comedy for horny teenage boys that you would include as much nudity in the finished film as possible. You would be wrong, as it appears a lot of it was cut out. Be thankful for bonus features. The last extra is an American Pie trivia game. If you should do really well on this, I'd like to remind you that there are lots of other movies out there, many of which are quite good.
I don't expect this is the last we'll see of the American Pie brand. The films are cheap to make, go straight to video and come with a built-in audience. The quality of the movies doesn't seem to make a difference. The Book of Love is proof of that.
Review content copyright © 2009 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Deleted Scenes
* Alternate Takes
* Gag Reel
* Trivia Game
* Official Site
* Video: Trailer
* Video: Brett Michael's Love Recipe
* Video: Launch Party Interviews