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American Pie Presents Beta House: The Review

Director: Andrew Waller

Cast: John White, Steve Talley, Meghan Heffren, Jake Siegel, Nick Nicotera, Sarah Power, Jonathan Keltz, Christopher McDonald and Eugene Levy

Plot: Erik Stifler (White) finally becomes a Freshman, but finds the Stifler legacy a crushing weight on his shoulders.

This might sound a little foolhardy of me, but I completely forgot just how chauvinistic Beta House was. The entire premise of this movie is the writers impressing the audience with the college lifestyle. According to the film, the moment the two nerdy guys from Naked Mile, Erik and Cooze, get to college, their naïve beginnings are forgotten and they are instantly promoted to campus heroes. Every female student is less about studying and more about releasing their inner slut. One particular distasteful joke implies that the Geek students are successful, seeing as most of the women in this movie see college has a chance of bagging a rich, successful husband early on. Suffragette this is not! The original American Pie series would have had fun with this idea. Jim, Stifler and co arrive on campus, expecting the women to be this easy and the fun to be this wild, and in turn find out that college life is more about studying and becoming independent. We would have had the dream college fantasy torn up in front of our eyes, made forgiving with some amusing humour and uplifting life lessons. Beta House ignores the sentimental strength of the original trilogy and just gives the audience what it wants: their wildest dreams of college life. The characters are either having parties or planning them, respect is earned through the stupid stuff you are dared to do and the only women to get enough grades to get into college are allegedly supermodels. The only suggestion that education actually takes a priority in this movie is one scene where Dwight Stifler apparently knows Swahili.

But if I try and protest female rights in a review of American Pie, I might as well go chasing my tail in the garden. What Beta House does do very well is cut out the middle-man of its B Movie comedy. With most films of this genre, we are given a hollow shell of a plot (Erik tries to lose his virginity, Matt Stifler is forced to spend time at Band Camp), and uses it as an excuse to line up its womanising sight gags and controversial humour. Deep down, you have to admire the fact that Beta House kind of just goes for it. The character arcs are intangible little things, connecting the scenes together without really forming a true whole. Erik and Cooze both struggle to get intimate with their girlfriends. Dwight tries to prove to his friends that his cousin is more than a nervous teenager. They are rather forgettable affairs and not really the purpose of this movie. What Beta House does do is just line up its jokes and fire them off one after the other. The film revolves around two overall objectives. One: Erik and the pledging freshman must complete a blackboard of challenges to become members of the famous Beta House. Half of the film is spent with amusing montages of Erik and friends completing outrageous tasks. Cue a punch-up in a strip bar and a violent Ostrich cropping up in an unexpected place. It is the stuff teen comedies are made of and I am confident Beta House has inspired several challenge boards across the world full of student dares. The second half of the film sees Dwight take on a rival House in a student tournament, that involves seven games of various skills. What we end up with is less a functioning story and more of an amusing sketch show. There are needless cut-aways to Dwight taking a nymphomaniac back to his dorm room and scenes that really should have made the edit room’s floor. Yet it does come across as pure B Movie American Pie. As a result, it is probably the best of the American Pie Presents series. It doesn’t try to capture that spark of the old ones with tired repetitive plot points. It sees the crass humour as its strength and, for better or for worse, runs with it. What we end up with is a movie that probably gets rated higher than Band Camp, Book of Love or Naked Mile simply because it is honest in its intentions. We know what we are going to get with the instalment and there is a comfort in that.

It also helps that it has some form of familiarity with it. Band Camp and Naked Mile suffered, because we were catching up with brand new characters trying to do what the old lot did. Erik Stifler is forever condemned with being a bunch of teen movie clichés stapled together in an attempt to make someone relatable. With Beta House, at least, we have bonded with half of the cast from the last movie. Erik and Cooze are hardly up there with the best of American Pie’s heroes, but they help ground the plot with easy charisma. Steve Talley steals the show, as ever, a Stifler you can’t help but love. He has always been an odd character. He is the alpha male, that is a given, but this fact is celebrated, rather than mocked as it was with Steven Stifler. It is as if someone really didn’t understand the point of Stifler. Dwight becomes an interesting blend of the arrogant alpha male, but the kind of alpha male the audience wishes they could be. He is cocky, yet kind, most of his motivations spent on helping others or protecting a fraternity he believes in. Talley is charismatic, the script asking him to be little more than an awesome guy, but working it with every last part of his body. The new faces are strong too. The women aren’t too much to praise, but they don’t get in the way. The writers ask Meghan Heffern to play her love interest as sweet, rather than sexy, so she rises above the seedy womanising of the other girls here, even if she is still only featured in the story to be that attractive trophy for the male character to take to bed. Stronger are Nick Nicotera and Jonathan Keltz. Nick takes a thankless role of the fat friend and makes something memorable out of it. He fits into the proceedings so smoothly that you forget he wasn’t involved with Naked Mile. Keltz plays Wesley, the Blackout King, who suffers from an inability to remember anything after a night of drinking. It leads to some great jokes. Yeah, Beta House is little more than a guilty pleasure, but god damn it, it works!

Final Verdict: Still the same male-orientated nude-fest, but it wears its crassness on its sleeve and bags the best jokes since the old cast bowed out of the series.

Three Stars