Judge Eric Profancik thinks that one Stifler was probably enough.
This one time, at band camp…
Immediately prior to watching this disc, I was watching the latest episode of one of my new favorite television shows, The Private Life of a Masterpiece. Tonight's episode focused on "Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1—Portrait of the Artist's Mother." For anyone who knows a bit of the background on this piece and the artist, you understand how perfectly appropriate yet obscenely vulgar this one-two combination is.
I've enjoyed the American Pie series. As is sadly the case with far too many movie franchises, they get worse with each passing movie. Pie was amazingly funny; Pie 2 a bit less funny; and Pie 3 even less so. Now we have Pie 4, and the trend continues. American Pie, you need to be very careful in the marketing and branding of your name. Instead of being remembered and thought of as a funny franchise, if you keep in this vein your name will sour like that of National Lampoon—a once venerated comedy franchise that now puts its name on any piece of crap that comes its way.
Should the title of this film been Band Crap instead? Let's find out.
Facts of the Case
Matt Stifler (Tad Hilgenbrink), the younger brother of the infamous Steve Stifler, has learned much from his obnoxious, opinionated, vulgar, and sexually repressed older sibling. Now the star quarterback in his high school, Matt is a royal pain in the butt. It's graduation day, and the high school band, under the direction of Elyse (Arielle Kebbel, Soul Plane), a hot, talented student, is warming up. During a quick break, Matt pulls a prank on the band, ruining the graduation ceremony. He's sent to see the school counselor, the Shermanator (Chris Owen, October Sky), who sends him off to band camp.
At Tall Oaks Band Camp, Matt is the typical fish out of water. Nobody appreciates his reprehensible behavior, especially Elyse, who can win a music scholarship if their high school wins the band camp competition. Faced with an eclectic mix of hotties, geeks, freaks, snobs, and losers, Matt must find a way to survive band camp. He has ideas of creating a "Bandeez" video showing the world what really goes on at Tall Oaks, but he might find himself instead trying to fit in and adapt.
It took Steve Stifler three movies to learn to accept the pains of maturing; can Matt Stifler mature in just one?
A movie that goes straight to video usually leads you to infer its inferiority. A movie that you haven't heard of until three days before it goes to video also leads you to infer inferiority. Yet when I first saw the ads for this film, the label of American Pie gave me some small measure of hope that it could have some modicum of enjoyability.
Modicum is the perfect word for this movie, a film that rightfully deserves to come out of nowhere, straight to the store shelves.
Let's begin with how Band Camp ties back into the franchise. Duh, that would be Stifler. While Seann William Scott has gone on to become a B-level star in Hollywood (but, man, his role in Bulletproof Monk was so off the mark!), his legacy lives on. It may have been Jason Biggs who put his member in an apple pie; it may have been Alyson Hannigan who became the hot, geek breakout star; but it was Seann who stole every scene. Without Stifler, is there any pie? Probably not, which is why Stifler's younger, annoying brother becomes the star of this installment. Unfortunately, that's the end of the Stifler family, and Stifler's mom fails to make an appearance. Yet there are two other people who help bring Band Camp into the fold. First, making an unremarkable guest spot, is the ultimate redheaded geek, the Shermanator, who has gone from nailing Nadia to sentencing Stifler. More important, though, is Jim's dad, Eugene Levy. With that glazed expression and huge swath of eyebrow, Eugene makes a clumsy appearance as the band camp's "MACRO" officer. Eugene was amazing in the previous three films, but here he feels like he's just showing up for a paycheck. There's a bit of that lovely befuddlement to him, but his acting is more a blasé recitation of a character with which he's likely bored.
On the flipside is newcomer Tad Hilgenbrink, who stars as the latest Stifler. He goes all-out to infuse his character with the gusto, charm, and finesse you've come to expect from the Stifler clan. It's not an award-winning performance, but he does a highly respectable take on an obnoxious, foul-mouthed, perverted ass. Adding just that special nuance to his acting, he has the Steve Stifler mannerisms, gestures, expressions, and cadence down cold. And, from a certain angle, he even looks like Seann William Scott.
But all that is for naught, as Band Camp is a tired retread of the same jokes we've seen in this franchise before. They were original and funny the first time, but here they're just stale and far past their prime. Sticking a trumpet up your bum was amusing a few years ago, but putting an English horn (not an oboe) on your member isn't. Okay, it actually is…but I would have much preferred to see the flute story come to life. Still, that's all Band Camp offers: a slight tweaking of the same characterizations and events we've already seen. There is nothing new in this film, and if it didn't have the American Pie moniker blazing out at you from the cover, you'd walk right pass it without a second look.
That's pretty much what you should do here.
The disc I reviewed, the unrated widescreen iteration, is a solid technical offering. You will find quality video and audio transfers. The 1.78:1 anamorphic print is crisp, clean, and realistic, with a pleasing and accurate palette, sharp details, and no errors that I could see. This is a dialogue-intensive film, so the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix doesn't have too many moments to shine. With hiss-free dialogue from the center, the other speakers do perk up during the intermittent marching band sequences. You won't have any complaints with the audio.
This is far from a bare-bones disc, yielding more than I expected from this straight-to-video release. I do have to admit I am pleased that there wasn't a commentary track to go through. What you do get are:
• Some slightly amusing outtakes (4 minutes).
When you first put in the disc, you can delight to the preview trailers for The 40 Year Old Virgin, Red Eye, and Raw.
I was surprised there weren't any Easter Eggs (that I could find).
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Continuing the insulting antics of the American Pie trilogy, Band Camp introduces you to a new set of miscreants from East Great Falls High. With outrageous humor, crazy antics, and hilarious situations, you'll regret never having gone to band camp when you were in high school. The Stifler legacy lives on!
I had hoped that this would be a fun, mindless, sexually aggressive movie in the mold of the first American Pie film. As evidenced above, that was not the case. After watching the bonus items, I could tell these young actors had a great time and did their best to bring this movie to life, but the material they had to work with was simply second-rate. It is time to let the franchise rest. When all you can get is the Shermanator to do your sequel, you need to realize it's time to stop. With such tepid humor, I'm not recommending this one for rental or for purchase.
American Pie Presents Band Camp is hereby found guilty of tarnishing our fond daydreams of what Michelle Flaherty and her girlfriends did at Tall Oaks.
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