Director: Steve Rash
Cast: Tad Hilgenbrinck, Arielle Kebbel, Jason Earles, Omar Benson Miller, Jun Hee Lee, Crystle Lightning, Matt Barr and Eugene Levy
Plot: Matt Stifler, the younger brother to Steve, is sentenced to Band Camp in a last hope to change his behaviour for the better, but the band camp’s attempts to win a scholarship are put into severe jeopardy.
For a few years now, I have dismissed Band Camp as the worst American Pie movie to date. It was the first cop-out spin-off of the iconic originals and it’s few connections to the other films are the lead being the brother of Seann William Scott’s dickhead Stifler character and Jim’s Dad popping up in a supporting role that doesn’t quite make too much sense. The flaws are still there, which I shall detail below, but there were a few surprising high notes to Band Camp that made me actually enjoy re-watching it.
The main problem is still there: Matt Stifler. In the original films, Stifler was a bad character. We were not meant to see him as the hero, more of the antagonist who was funny in places. This is the first mistake Rash makes with his movie: misunderstanding that a fellow Stifler does not make a principal hero. The opening sequence is painfully unfunny as it tries to make the audience side with him ruining a graduation ceremony by lacing the orchestra’s instruments with pepper spray. You can tell by the punch-line that the movie expects this to be a laugh-out-loud moment of hilarity, but it never achieves that. We hate Stifler as much as the poor victims of the prank do. Tad Hilgenbrink in fairness looks the spitting image of his brother. He has the cocky giggle, the annoying grin and delivery of his insults down to a tee. I am sure if he was a side character, like Seann William Scott was, I would be much more willing to spend time with the character. However, as a lead, Hilgenbrink doesn’t work, coming across as a carbon copy rather than a character in his own right. Steve Talley might have struggled with poor writing in the other spin-offs, but at least he made something new out of his Stifler. Matt Stifler is simply devoid of redemptive qualities, which makes his addition to Band Camp quite painful to watch. As he blindly lashes out to every other character, hitting on women out of his league and winding up authority figures, we end up pitying the poor band camp students whose scholarships are going down the drain, because of one in their midst who refuses to play by the rules. It doesn’t help that the plot of the movie is essentially Stifler trying to be nice to the band camp geeks to film some hidden porn. That’s not a noble quest for the hero; that is a felony.
Then something happens. The movie begins awakening to its own flaws. Band Camp will always suffer, because this happens far too late in the day, but at least it turns itself around in time for the ending. A lot of this is down to Arielle Kebbel’s performance as the composer whose career is on the line with Band Camp. I seem to remember her as the prissy stereotype, something American Pie prided itself on avoiding. However, there is more depth to her and she is a likeable character, which fuels a lot of the movie. You feel for her, as Stifler unwittingly destroys her dreams. And slowly we begin to see Stifler through her eyes. Matt Stifler winds up like a irresistible puppy. His antics are frustratingly annoying at first, but slowly they show an endearing quality. As Stifler plays ‘Play that Funky Music, White Boy’ with the bagpipes, the first smile is cracked and you realise he has finally gotten to you. Slowly the character begins to care for those around him and as he tries to turn around the damage he has caused, you side with Matt. The movie comes together just in time for an outstanding finale set-piece that cracks the right heart-warming smiles.
Final Verdict: Band Camp is a movie of two halves: a dreadful opening gambit and an ending that somehow makes you forget all the misery that came before.