Much like ordering a latte from a coffee stand you haven’t used before, you never know what you’re going to get with a direct to video sequel. They’re all of a lower budget to their predecessors, usually always feature actors about as well known as Harrison Ford’s net banking password, and are well-known for ‘referencing’ but hardly ever ‘featuring’ the characters of the original films.
On the other hand, with less money at hand, no A-lister to divert eyes from a stale script, and a bunch of new characters that have got to win us over pretty quickly – the scripts are usually good, because, well, they have to be. For a lot of these low-budget follow-ups, the yarn is what will indubitably deter the viewer from rushing to the stop button.
Like a scattering of chocolate sprinkles atop your Latte, “American Pie: Band Camp” is a bit of a surprise. It’s not as frothy or hot as the first film – the ultimate 90’s teen movie, say most – but side by side with the theatrically released American Wedding (as weak as diet cordial in my opinion), it’s unquestionably the better movie.
“Band Camp” takes us back to the musical milieu first teased in American Pie 2. This time it’s not Jim (Jason Biggs) who’s going to hastily try and learn an instrument to impress a bandie, but Matt Stifler (Tad Hilgenbrinck), the younger brother of lewd jerk Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott – and no, he doesn’t make an appearance). Matt’s been sent to the camp as a form of punishment (by the school guidance counsellor, ‘The Sherminator’, no less) and he’s about as welcome there as flies at a barbecue.
Seems the young Stifler is as dirty, sordid and downright unlikeable as his older brother – and plans to live up to that repute, and make the most out of his band camp experience. With some nifty video camera equipment (and later, a robot) he sets up cameras in the girls showers, planning to make a no-holds-barred ‘Bandies Go Wild’ video for his similarly dirty pals back home.
Enter Elyse (Arielle Kebbel), a cute prepish musician with nothing on her mind but showing the competing bands what her team’s got. She’s the chalk to Stifler’s cheese, but needless to say, they discover a mutual admiration for each other – and more, in turn causing young Stifler to consider changing his ways. But can he?
If there’s one thing that’s holding this film’s flag up its Tad Hilgenbrinck – he’s brilliant. A DNA test needs to be conducted, because he seriously looks and acts like Seann William Scott. The guy’s a dead-ringer, and truth be told, possibly even funnier than Scott was in the last couple of “Pie” flicks.
In addition, the attractive Kebbel gives a convincing and amiably sweet performance as the endearing Elyse.
Though most of the supporting cast are largely unknowns, there are a couple of familiar faces making appearances – most notably, Eugene Levy, reprising his role as ‘Jim’s Dad’. Pops is filling in for daughter-in-law Michelle (played by Alyson Hannigan in the previous films) as a counsellor at the camp, and you can only imagine the worldly advice he’s giving out. Always a pleasure.
It’s not as funny as seeing a teenage dweeb do the horizontal joggle with a pastry, but “American Pie : Band Camp” is funny, high-spirited and a pleasurable place to toot your horn at for an hour and a half.
Would be keen to see the further adventures of Matt Stifler sometime.
Among the interesting assortment of extras on the DVD are video diaries from the cast (very candid, quite amusing), a tour of the set, a music video, a large bunch of deleted scenes, some droll outtakes, and a voucher for a free back massage by Ginger Lynn Allen (No, hang on, that was part of the dream).