American Pie Presents Band Camp

(Note to studio: comedy screenplays for cheap direct-to-video movies should never make it to 121 pages.) Now, our suspicions have been fully realized. “American Pie Presents: Band Camp” is little more than a blatant attempt to cash in on brand name recognition.

With most of the original cast of the “American Pie” films having moved on to other things (the draft of the script that got this project greenlit included Stifler’s mom, Finch and Steve Stifler himself), the new story follows Stifler’s younger brother Matt (newcomer Tad Hilgenbrinck, who really does look and sound like he could be Seann William Scott’s sibling) as he tries to live up to the “legend” of his older brother. Of course, nobody outside of Steve Stifler’s circle of friends liked him very much, and Matt is even more annoying, and thus more hated by his peers. People tolerate him because he will be the starting quarterback when school resumes next fall. But when Matt takes a graduation day prank too far, he is inexplicably sent to the band camp by school counselor Sherman (Chris Owen, stepping in to make some connection to the original trilogy in a scene originally written to be between the school principal and Stifler’s mom, for which we now have “Joey” to be thankful for keeping the very talented Jennifer Coolidge away from this mess).

Being a junior Stiffmeister, Matt is determined to make the most of his days being stuck at band camp. Wishing to follow in his older brother’s footsteps as a producer of “Girls Gone Wild”-like videos, Matt devises a plan, based on the things he’s heard about band camp, to set up a series of video cameras to film his fellow campmates in intimate situations. Lucky for him, band camp is populated with many nubile young ladies, and with the help of his camp roomie, the technogeek Ernie (who has fortunately brought his motorized robot with twin cameras for eyes to camp), Matt begins shooting for his “Bandies Gone Wild” epic. But as we saw with previous “Pie” films, the heart can make a young man do strange things, and Matt starts to feel conflicted when he starts to find himself becoming emotionally attached to Elyse (the lovely Ariel Kebbel), the student band leader for East Great Falls High.

I doubt anyone expects an “American Pie” to be on the same level with a Preston Sturges film or even a John Hughes film, but what is most sad about “Band Camp” is the presence of Eugene Levy, who is shoehorned into the story as the camp’s Morale and Conflict Resolution Officer. Levy has proven himself to be one of the better comedic actors of the day, and we know it takes several years for him Christopher Guest to create a new premise for one of their modern classics, but this is the sixth consecutive bad comedy (following “Cheaper by the Dozen 2,” “The Man,” “New York Minute,” “American Wedding” and “Dumb and Dumberer” being the other violators) he has made since his and Guest’s last collaboration (“A Mighty Wind”), which might be paying his mortgages but severely hurting his overall image. We’re coming to the point where a Eugene Levy comedy that does not have “Directed by Christopher Guest” at the end of the credits is simply not worth watching, and that is a sad commentary and a waste of a true gift.

On the plus side, Tad Hilgenbrinck (who makes his film debut here) does have the same goofy effervescence that Seann William Scott has put into many of his roles, and having the lead role in a successful film, even one that went straight to video, could give him some career momentum. Ariel Kebbel, the young female lead, has a true girl-next-door charisma that is a refreshing change from the would-be porn stars that are often passed off as fresh-faced ingenues.

Let me quickly tell you how unforgettable this movie is… I wrote the bulk of this review in late December 2005, after watching the film and all its supplemental materials (a quite tepid group of “bonus” features not worth talking about), and only remembered I needed to finish it more than a month later. Most of the jokes just lie there, the vast majority of performances are as flat as the jokes and the direction is as lifeless as the performances. But then, who watches “American Pie” movies for the storyr It’s all about the breasts, and based on the early DVD sales for “Band Camp,” they are good enough to probably warrant “American Pie Presents Band Camp Again” and “American Pie Presents Band Camp Yet Again.”

Rating: D-