Sunday, January 31, 2010

American Pie Presents: The Book of Love - DVD Review

First things first: why in the bleeding fuck would you watch the fourth straight-to-DVD American Pie movie?

Well, there are three answers to that. One, I'm a moron with terrible taste in film. Two, I already watched the first three and you can't just jump out a train while the ride's still going, can you? And three, there's a certain blissful freedom to watching a terrible movie with full knowledge that you're embarking on a journey of shit. Sure, I should probably get around to finally seeing Gone With the Wind, but then I would be obligated to mentally engage and analyze and formulate well-researched and articulated thoughts about the film as a piece of American cultural history. On the other hand, I can Netflix American Pie Presents: The Book of Love and sit stupidly eating Cheez-Its in front of the glowing screen for ninety minutes and no one gives a shit whether or not I can form a single coherent thought about the experience afterwards. What could be more liberating?

Fair enough. Who are the dramatis personae?

We got a real Shakespearian lineup going on here. We open the film with our protagonist Rob masturbating, of course. He spies a peanut butter sandwich and decides to have sex with it, followed by his dog approaching and licking the peanut butter off his penis. His resistance melts away and he begins moaning the dog's name. His little brother videotapes this on his camera phone and emails it to their mom and the entire high school. I'd love to say that this scene doesn't flawlessly set the tone for the rest of the picture, but it does. It really, truly does.

So Rob is our awkward nice guy protagonist who ends up in embarrassing sexual situations (ala Jim from the original film), his friend Nathan is the one with the girlfriend who isn't ready to have sex yet (ala Kevin from the original film), and their other friend Lube is the desperate horny one who only thinks about sex all the time (think Stifler from the original film, except with the cockiness removed and thus what made him entertaining and not just a skin-crawling creep). The trio is desperate to lose their virginities before their looming high school graduation and hatch various boneheaded plots to do so while being dogged by another antagonistic Stifler cousin who does an absolutely grotesque impersonation of Seann William Scott from the original trilogy.

As you can probably tell, The Book of Love is all but officially a straight remake of the original film, covering many of the exact same subplots and the exact same thematic territory and same sexual embarrassment jokes just with a straight-to-DVD shit-colored polish to it. I'm not claiming that the original American Pie is a masterpiece by any means, but if nothing else all four of the central guys plus Stifler did have distinct personalities. Given a scenario and five responses to said scenario, you could easily match each response up to each character after just one viewing of the film. The same cannot be said for Rob, Nathan, and Lube — other than Lube being a little bit more perverted, they all have the same identical bland nebbishy nice guy persona. I literally got Rob and Nathan confused at points (see the two guys on the left in the picture above).

And Eugune Levy's back, right?

You'd better believe it mofucka. Not only does Eugene Levy return, run blandly through the motions, and pick up another cool paycheck for his seventh consecutive film appearance as Jim's dad Noah Levenstein, but he's actually not the only recognizable actor this time around. None other than Rosanna Arquette plays Rob's mom, and, well, I'm certainly not a member of any Rosanna Aquette fanclub or anything like that, but she was in Pulp Fiction for crying out loud, so it's a little disheartening to watch her tell her cinematic son not to get blowjobs from the family dog or confusedly hold up a cum-soaked sock and try to figure out what it is. Tim Matheson, who played the vice president in NBC's The West Wing, also shows up, so you can feel patriotic while retching.

Tell us about the-

-the plot? Glad to! Well, you remember the sex Bible from the original American Pie, right? Hidden in a secret compartment in the East Great Falls High library, which Kevin used to give his girlfriend the forbidden "Tongue Tornado" cunnilingus technique? Well, Rob, Nathan, and Lube find this sacred tome in the remnants after a library fire, but it has unfortunately been ruined save for a few scraps and the list of its previous wielders. They resolve to contact this list one by one to restore the text (Jim's dad is revealed to have created the Bible, which is where he fits into this mess) and use its contents to finally get laid.

Now, this is probably the stupidest plot I've ever heard of for two reasons: One, a physical written book of sex techniques was already edging towards archaic back in 1999 (but was forgivable, being a relatively small part of the film), but in 2010 it's absolutely absurd. Search for "sex tips" or "sex techniques" on Google and very literally tens of millions of words worth of all the arcane Kama Sutra knowledge you can possibly imagine is presented to you free of charge or effort in two seconds. And two, the point of the Bible in the original film was that Kevin already had a girlfriend but didn't know how to please her; some teenaged nerd can have encyclopedia of every single sex technique and secret and position in existence in his mind but that has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on his ability to actually attract a girl.

But reconstruct the Bible they do, and it evidently teaches them everything they need to know. On the school ski trip Nathan's girlfriend finally agrees to do it, Rob confesses his love to his female friend and they do it, and Lube tells the uber-hot cheerleader he's been lusting over all movie about how he knows everything about her and remembers how great she was in all the school plays and a litany of other information and she's so smitten that they do it too. Lube's story is a particularly great life lesson — if you're a chubby, sweaty high school nerd who thinks about nothing but sex all day, all you have to do to make the head cheerleader fall in love with you is tell her how you've been stalking her her whole life.

The class then locks Scott Stifler outside the cabin in the nude and he gets chased down and raped in the ass by a giant CGI moose, while the entire senior class points and laughs uproariously at what in real life would be a brutal and incredibly painful death. No, I am not fucking with you.

No, tell us about the boobs, Tim! The boobs!

Oh, my bad. Well, you'll recall that in the original American Pie theatrical trilogy the guys' romantic interests never exposed their breasts; only alluring foreign exchange students, sexy naughty neighbors, and strippers. But any respectable connoisseur of straight-to-DVD trash well knows that as of 2006's American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile the producers said "fuck it!" and from that movie on the romantic interests peel off too with the solitary exception of the main protagonist's innocent female friend who he's secretly in love with. That tradition stands here, in addition to various other flashings, streakers, miscellaneous sex scenes, and hookers.

So while that aspect of the film doesn't disappoint, if that's your primary concern you'd be much, much better off renting 2007's American Pie Presents: Beta House, which basically abandons any semblance of narrative or structure and morphs the series into a college party Skinemax softcore flick with occasional hints at comedy. The Book of Love actually would still be a complete movie with a plot and jokes with the boobs removed, whereas Beta House would be about four minutes long.

So... is any of it actually funny?


1 Star out of 5