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American Pie: Band Camp

While it was conceivable that future installments in the American Pie series of crass comedies might escape the humorlessly wretched depths of the ghastly third film, American Wedding, there was still little expectation that its immediate successor, American Pie: Band Camp (2005) — a straight-to-video release, no less, with nary a returning star — could muster enough quality to recommend it. Yet, Band Camp comes closer than the two preceding, variably poor, AP sequels in capturing the same spirit of good-hearted raunch that earned the flagship film affectionate comparisons to the free-wheeling teen sex farces of the 1980s. Wisely returning to the high school milieu the previous sequels left behind, Band Camp stars the unfortunately named Tad Hilgenbrink as Matt Stifler, the younger brother of Seann William Scott's memorably irredeemable franchise character Steve Stifler. Aspiring to match his older brother's famous reputation for depravity, Matt engages in a disciplined diet of aggressive horndogging and juvenile pranksmanship, but when one practical joke on the school band backfires and Stifler is caught with — literally — his pants down, as punishment he is forced (by Chris Owen, reprising his series role as "The Sherminator," now a guidance counselor) to spend his summer vacation at band camp. Having heard tales of wild band geek sexcapades, however, Stifler aims to exploit his incarceration with an arsenal of hidden video cameras. Of course, his hijinks are complicated when he begins to side with his fellow bandies as they compete against a haughty rival school and he falls for a sweet majorette (Arielle Kebbel). No one seeks out the likes of American Pie: Band Camp for its narrative novelty, highbrow wit, or aesthetic mastery, and it never dares impose itself outside of its very limited formula of extreme sexual mischief and broad gags, and Band Camp is very sure of its narrow mission and a fair bit of fun. Veteran director Steve Rash keeps tight control, never letting a typically gross set-piece run a second too long and overspend its minimal humor value. He also gets a few bright and charming performances out of his young cast. Hilgenbrink's mimicry of Scott's Stifler-frere is uncanny, but he also adds a likable touch of ignorant desperation that balances the character for a believable transition from antagonizing asshole to heartstruck hero. Kebbel, as the perky but serious Elyse, is a delightfully vulnerable match for Stifler's crude antics, and her tenderly drawn character echoes the unexaggerated archetypes that helped distinguish the original American Pie from the less-memorable teen comedies. Band Camp, however, never aspires to capture the kind of coming-of-age journey that further transformed the first movie (and, misapplied, helped derail the other sequels), and in ably embracing the less ambitious purpose of dumb sex jokes, Band Camp is perhaps more true to the legacy of Porky's and its ilk than its oft-compared predecessor. Also with Eugene Levy, returning in a bit part as "Jim's Dad," and aging porn legend Ginger Lynn. American Pie: Band Camp is presented in an unrated version with eight minutes of extra material. The film is presented in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The "unrated" extras include "Poolside With the Band Camp Girls," "Unrated Love Lessons With Ginger Lynn," outtakes and deleted scenes, "Band Camp Girls" Music Video, " Rover Cam Uncut," and "Band Camp's Dirty Secrets." Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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