The ever-enthusiastic Pete Hammond of Maxim says the following about American Pie Presents Beta House:
"...may be the most outrageous slice of pie yet!"
Ahem. With all due respect to Mr. Hammond (who also called Wild Hogs "hysterically funny" and Evan Almighty "a great time at the movies"), I think a more appropriate (or at least honest) quote for the DVD cover might be:
"Slightly more amusing to sit through than the two previous entries, but really ... that's not much of a compliment."
Strange but true, schlock-lovers, but after suffering through the ceaseless miseries of American Pie Presents Band Camp and American Pie Presents The Naked Mile, I was obviously expecting the worst from American Pie Presents Beta House. And I don't think that's me being unfair, really. (One need only get smacked in the face with cow shit twice before one gets a little skittish around cows.) So I popped the disc in, all smug and superior, and ... what the hell? A few early chuckles? (Thanks mainly to a profane cameo appearance by Christopher McDonald, but still.) The connection to American Pie, American Pie 2 and American Wedding is this: Eugene Levy shows up (once again) to wiggle his wacky eyebrows and earn a quick check.
Beta House takes a few listless jabs at what could charitably be termed "plot threads," but really the movie's nothing more than a barely-connected series of set-pieces that are obsessed with one of two things: Female breasts and male semen. (Not to be overtly vulgar, but I've seen hardcore porn with less hooters and "money shots" than are found in Beta House. Now THERE'S a blurb for the DVD cover!) When the movie's not pandering to your basic lust for nipples and/or bodily excretions, it's ostensibly about a group of college freshmen (one of whom is named Stifler) who aim to pledge a frat. Yeah, that's it. But there's a small silver lining to be found buried beneath all the sophomoric silliness, frequent expulsions of vomit, and head-slap-obvious "man juice" jokes... One of the few plot threads that gets batted around in Beta House goes like this: The hard-partying frat boys are the heroes -- and the humorously evil members of the "geek frat" are the villains. With a better screenplay, you could really do something with this concept, but writer Erik Lindsay only gets to explore a few of the (mildly) clever ideas. (There's a gag involving sexy Star Trek role-playing that I found extremely effective, a decent portion of the characters' "off-hand banter" is kinda funny, and a few of the movie references (like The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now, oddly enough) are better than your average gag.) Had the filmmakers opted to focus a bit more on the main "cool studs vs. evil nerds" story, instead of constantly digressing with stand-alone set-pieces (strip club scene! makeout scene! party scene!) that are slightly amusing at best and egregiously simple-minded at worst ... well, we might have had a real surprise on our hands.
(Something halfway interesting I noticed: I liked the fact that one of the female "good guys" was presented as both slightly-yet-plainly 'chunky' and sexy at the same time. I was expecting her to become the butt of some 'fat girl' jokes any minute, and it never happened. You don't see that sort of thing in this type of comedy too often. But fear not fellas: the 563 other women in the movie are fake-knocker top-heavy and/or see-through skinny.)
As it stands we have a plainly mediocre (and cheap-looking) sex comedy that's content to deliver a bunch of the same old hooey for the same old horny 14-year-olds. The fact that there actually are some clever ideas (and even a few affable performances) mired amidst such generic vulgarity is both good news and bad: Good because, hey, it looks like someone actually put forth a little more effort this time around -- and bad because they clearly could have tried a little harder.
But yeah, if boobs, sperm and puke are your favorite comedy props, this just might be your new favorite comedy. (As to be expected, the DVD is jam-packed with R-rated extras, including excised plot threads, deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes, music videos, a participant-packed audio commentary, 4 endless-loop "boobie yule logs," and (just for the hell of it) a free episode of 30 Rock.