Judge Daniel Kelly presents: A negative review.
Our review of American Pie Presents: The Book Of Love (Blu-Ray), published December 22nd, 2009, is also available.
Do you yearn to see a badly animated CGI Moose rape a 30 year old actor
portraying a high school kid?
Universal's American Pie (1999) is a deservedly cherished memento within the teen comedy genre; it's funny, goofy, sexy and surprisingly touching. The plot circled around a group of lovably clueless geeks trying to lose their virginity before prom and its mix of gross out humour, emotional earnestness, and heart-warming characterization made it a box office hit. As a result, a sequel arrived two years later, but American Pie 2 (2001) was patchy and dull. The original cast was back, but the film amounted to a desperate rehash and struggled to provide a quarter of the laughs perpetrated by the first. The third film, American Wedding (2003), was even worse, but at least it managed a theatrical release, something the latter instalments would fail to do.
Fast forward to 2009 and we now have the seventh film (that's seven in one decade!!!) entitled The Book of Love. Like the previous few features, it was ushered direct to DVD and it's not hard to see why. The film has an exceedingly low amount of worthwhile jokes and largely coasts on its ability to concoct disturbingly putrid comic scenarios, throwing boobs at the screen rather than building a credible narrative momentum. It's a sluggish endeavour and, for large portions of its runtime, offensively unfunny.
The plot is a loose retread of virtually every other feature in this saga, a group of well intentioned dorks want to hook up with hot girls and lose their cherries. This time the gang is three strong and each member has a girl of his dreams. The first is Rob (Bug Hall, The Little Rascals) who wants to get with his virginal-but-sexy library buddy Heidi (Beth Behrs). Then there's Lube (Brandon Hardesty, Bart Got a Room), an overweight goofball who fancies a punt at head cheerleader Ashley (Jennifer Holland, Zombie Strippers). Finally, we have Nathan (Kevin M. Horton, Big Game) who already has a girlfriend—unfortunately she's saving herself for marriage. The unlucky-in-love gang look set to leave High School as virgins, until one of them discovers The Book of Love from the first film (it's like Karma Sutra written by teenage boys) and begin to use to seduce and score.
The Book of Love fails because it's not very funny. I laughed maybe twice and even now—an hour after viewing it—I can't remember what the gags in question entailed. The film isn't really any worse than some of the barrel-scraping rot that can be found at your local multiplex, but that doesn't change the fact that it's barrel-scraping rot. Nearly all of the jokes are focused on sexual acts, some involving women, others involving animals, and one even uses a household appliance. You will also be treated to the sort of humour that utilizes vomiting and other bodily functions for sordid amusement; and yes, a fat guy who shoves a piece of pie in his mouth greedily. I suppose if the last five movies in the series had you in stitches, this probably sounds like an easy recommendation. For the rest of you, don't bother.
The cast aren't particularly great, even though a few manage to showboat a charisma that might keep them in the business longer than one more sex farce. You may not care about any of the characters, but that's more the fault of atrocious writing and predictable stereotypes than the young actors, who in fairness do try quite hard. Most of the performances are mindless and casting seems to have been done on the principals of cleavage and willingness to go nude. Bug Hall and Brandon Hardesty seem passable but don't ascend average. In a weak film, even middle of the road can seem sort of appealing. A special point of notice should be awarded to Jennifer Holland and Eugene Levy. Holland has a fair amount of screen time and for 90% of it she is either in skimpy underwear or totally naked. She is incredibly wooden and showcases no comic ability, but boy does she love to take her clothes off. It's really a performance that consists of various degrees of soft core pornography, because when she's reading lines it looks like they're coming from some sort of prompting device. As for Eugene Levy, it's just a shame that a modestly funny guy like him is still attached to this bilge. His continued willingness to lose dignity for a paycheck may see his face forever sullied in the Hollywood history books.
The Book of Love looks cheap and I guess that's the real reason American Pie movies continue to be made. Well, that and they are a good way of getting your breasts some attention or an easy way to get your music onto a pop soundtrack. People are buying these DVDs and making the sequels profitable. If you're a fan of the franchise, so be it, but I'm sure a handful of folks rent the movies out of morbid curiosity and that's where I recommend you stop. Even if it's a gross infatuation with the rape of your cinematic youth, you're still giving Universal reason to make more of these. The Book of Love is a swollen boil on the surface of mainstream comedy that needs to be popped before the infection spreads. So, in the future, just say no.
The DVD release comes equipped with a surprisingly decent crop of extras. The gag reel and deleted scenes take up around 15 minutes when combined and aren't any worse than the stuff in the movie (the gag reel might actually be better). There's also nearly a half hour of featurettes that occasionally focus on the making off the film, but mostly appear infatuated with onset shenanigans and well…boobs. Rounding out the package is a feature dedicated to the film's many C-list cameos (better make that D-list), and another on how best to make a romantic move on someone you like. Finally, franchise diehards can watch as cast members have their American Pie knowledge tested in a trivia quiz, which you can take a stab at yourself. It's complete fluff, but there happens to be more insubstantial nonsense on this standard-def disc than many others being produced at the moment. For that, Universal deserve recognition. Both rated and unrated cuts have been included—a 2 minute difference between the two. I imagine the variation is simply more boobs and general debauchery.
The Book of Love is as formulaic as they come and the outcome won't surprise anyone. The tonal change in the last 10 minutes is an ill-judged attempt to replicate the heart of the first movie. However, switching from fratboy humour to saccharine overindulgence is an unsubtle and unskilled way to go about it. It would take an incredibly undemanding audience to feel satisfied by any component of this movie. For that to happen, the viewers would probably all have to be goldfish. Maybe then the enterprise wouldn't feel so stale and repetitive. After all, everything is new to a goldfish.
Hopefully, this is the last Guilty verdict anyone will have to bestow upon
this floundering franchise.
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