Director: John Putch
Cast: Bug Hall, Brandon Hardesty, Kevin M. Horton, Beth Behrs, John Patrick Jordan, Jennifer Holland, Melanie Papalia, Louise Lytton, Rosanna Arquette and Eugene Levy
Plot: Three hapless virgins are unlucky in love, but when they find the half-destroyed but infamous Book of Love, perhaps their fortunes have changed.
American Pie was once famous for being the comedy that brought new levels of intelligence to one of the simpler genres: the teen comedy. By putting a strong emphasis on characters, as the movie approached the usual gross-out staples of the genre, we cared enough for the story and the people these events were happening to, to find new admiration for the movie. However, by the law of diminishing returns, as each new instalment, eventually with Band Camp, abandoning the original series and turning into a spin-off generator, we lost a spark of quality each time. Viewers forgot about the heart of the original movie and instead focused on the party lifestyle, the crass jokes and, as Naked Mile and Beta House proved, the chance to see some female nudity. Which brings us to Book of Love, an American Pie without the heart.
On paper, perhaps you could be fooled for thinking that there is some weight in the script assembled. For one, we are brought back to the high school setting of the first film, thankfully dragging it away from the college area, which, while fun in places, was a film that never truly felt like an American Pie movie. With the high school setting, there is some sense of welcome familiarity, with a group of young guys and girls both at the age where they are under increasing pressure from sex, or lack thereof. The lead character, played by Bug Hall, is trapped in a platonic relationship with his crush. That girl wants to lose her virginity, egged on by her friends, and Hall sees this as an excuse to shed the best mate image and become boyfriend material. Meanwhile his friends are both struggling with their virginity. One friend has a crush on the hottest girl in school, but relies on tricks to talk to women, seeing as he isn’t a looker. The other friend has a nymphomaniac from a girlfriend, but one who has just found religion and is giving up sex. Throw in John Patrick Jordan’s Stifler, who is welcomingly closer to the Seann William Scott’s character than Talley’s (at the expense of the actor never really getting over the sense of impersonating Stifler rather than becoming him). There could be some good story-telling blocks here, but sadly, the movie has no idea how to replicate the heart of the original. The characters never get a moment to stop and grow on you, merely teen stereotypes, clinging to what came before. The girls are never anything more than trophies, the opposite of what American Pie’s original ladies stood for (especially awkward as Jennifer Holland’s character arc revolves around escaping the trophy image), the guys don’t quite get over the fact that they are in it for the sex, rather than falling in love and there are just too many copy and paste moments. The introduction is a thrown together ‘lead has sex with food’ gag. The mother, Rosanna Arquette, making a poor career decision, is a female version of Eugene Levy. Someone drinks sperm in a cup. Book of Love feels like it is ticking off boxes rather than thoughtfully coming up with an extension of the American Pie story. Even it’s new flourishes are horrifically crass. Stifler gets fucked by a CGI moose. And this is the perfect moment to close this review.
Final Verdict: Book of Love works very well at showing you just how special the original American Pie was. It turns out it is far too easy to end up with a mess like this.