'Road Trip: Beer Pong' is a Direct-to-Video Sequel Better Left as a Road Not Taken
(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. This week’s descent sinks lower than usual into the world of DTV T&A.)
It seems like a lifetime ago, but once upon a time “sexy” “teen” comedies were a popular and frequent presence in movie theaters. Teens, of course, have always been a part of the movies, but a sub-genre emerged built on the formula of wise-cracking young men, frequently naked young women, and forgettable plots. The 80s were particularly rife with them, and while some rise above the fray (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982; Risky Business, 1983) quite a few of the others exist mostly for the fleshy displays and cheap laughs (Private Lessons, 1981; Private School, 1983; Screwballs, 1983).
The 90s saw a sharp turn away from teenage shenanigans as the T&A market shifted towards direct to video adult thrillers starring Shannon Tweed and Andrew Stevens, but they started bouncing back with the rise of films like American Pie (1999), Eurotrip (2004), and Sex Drive (2008). That first film became a seemingly unstoppable franchise complete with seven sequels – granted, four of them are DTV sequels I’ll be covering here eventually, but it’s still impressive – but it’s a different film we’re here to talk about today.
Road Trip was a big hit in the summer of 2000 as it delivered plenty of laughs and copious amounts of nudity to an eager audience, but it never got a sequel until now. And by “now” I mean back in 2009, but you’d be forgiven for having missed it along with the rest of us. So join me won’t you? Hop in as we take a ride with Road Trip: Beer Pong!
Josh is in a faithful relationship with his high school sweetheart Tiffany, but they attend different colleges and the strain is starting to show. After suspecting that she may have finally left him for someone else, Josh decides to open his mind and legs to his classmate Beth and even goes so far as to videotape their bawdy “study” session. One or two whoops-a-daisies later, and the sex tape has been accidentally mailed to Tiffany leaving Josh panicked at the thought of her watching it. The obvious solution is a road trip alongside his two best friends and a nerd with a car, but what should have been a simple drive from A to B instead becomes a detour through X-rated shenanigans. Will Josh stop Tiffany from seeing his sex tape? Will viewers still see Josh as the good guy despite the fact that he straight up cheated on his girlfriend? Will Beth realize that a relationship built on infidelity is doomed to fail?
The DTV Plot
Andy is in a faithful relationship with his high school sweetheart Katy, but they attend different colleges and the strain is starting to show. His friends think he should relegate her to “hometown honey” status so he can fully enjoy his college years, and the issue is complicated when she transfers to his school to be closer to him. Worse, a curvy monkey wrench is tossed into the mix when Andy discovers a French girl he almost Frenched at summer camp a few years prior is now a beer pong model. That’s totally a thing. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Andy and his best friends are a nationally ranked beer pong team (?), and soon they’re undertaking a road trip to win a championship and get Andy laid. They find a sponsor in the lonely son of a foreign dictator, but soon the gang is being interrogated by the CIA for no reason whatsoever before being dropped in the middle of nowhere. Will the friends make it to the totally believable national competition in time? Will Andy give in to peer pressure and cheat on his faithful girlfriend? Will Katy realize she’s made a terrible mistake hitching her wagon to a beer pong enthusiast? Will any woman here realize she’s more than the sum of her measurements?
As is often the case, the DTV sequel carries over plot points and themes without the benefit of returning stars, but but we do get two familiar faces. DJ Qualls plays the nerdy Riverdance kid in the first film and returns here to narrate the tale – yes, he’s still at the same college nine years later – while Rhoda Griffis is back as one of the moms taking the college tour. The rest of the first film’s name stars (Breckin Meyer, Amy Smart, Seann William Scott, Paulo Costanzo, Tom Green, Fred Ward, Andy Dick, Ethan Suplee) are understandably absent, and in their place are… other people. The only recognizable faces here are Danny Pudi slumming it for some ethnic “laughs” and Julianna Guill who will be familiar to fans of the Fox series The Resident.
Behind the scenes talent takes an even harder hit. Todd Phillips made his debut as director and co-writer of the original, and say what you will about the guy but he only has one box-office bust (School for Scoundrels, 2006) among his nine feature films while six are bonafide hits. His co-writer Scot Armstrong was along for some of those successes while also “gifting” the world with The Heartbreak Kid (2007) and Semi-Pro (2008). By contrast, the sequel’s director and writer are stuck in DTV careers that also saw them directing/writing the likes of American Pie Presents: Band Camp (2005), Bring It on: All or Nothing (2006), and Slap Shot 3: the Junior League (2008). You get what you pay for folks.
How the Sequel Respects the Original
It’s understood that the sequel is a sex comedy like its predecessor, and while it tones down both aspects considerably they’re still the goal. Young horn dogs, willing women, and hijinks are the order of the day, and all three are fairly plentiful here as our ostensibly “good” guy and his buddies find adventure, sex, and light danger en route to their destination. Our hero is once again a guy willing to cheat on his girl, but this time around he – surprisingly – doesn’t go through with it. Sure, he gets to first base with the French model, but he puts the brakes on before things go any further. It’s an odd choice for a film that doesn’t really give women much credit in the brains and self-worth departments, but the end result is the same as its predecessor as Andy and Katy agree that friends with benefits is a better choice for them.
A more direct connective tissue is evident in the framing device as the film’s story is told by a tour guide at Ithaca College to prospective parents and students. Gone is Tom Green’s weird for weird sake Barry, and in his place is the returning Qualls as newly-minted chick magnet Kyle. He tells the “legendary” story and woos the very same mother from the first film – she’s back touring with her daughter this time – and once again the group is seemingly satisfied learning nothing at all about the school they’re considering attending.
How the Sequel Shits on the Original
Road Trip may not be a comedy classic – a re-watch confirms this by the way as some of it still brings the funny while quite a bit more leans into cringe territory, and good gravy does Tom Green test your patience – but it delivers both wit and fun alongside its parade of boobs. From the river jump to the African American fraternity to Seann William Scott’s discovery of his prostate gland, the film’s honest in its outrageous antics. It’s not realistic, but there’s a semblance of a uniquely American fable exaggerated in the telling.
Beer Pong manages none of that despite working from the same blueprint. It’s just so basic from beginning to end, and while I’m sure beer pong speaks to a certain demographic its portrayal here manages to feel as far from authentic as it does from entertaining. The original is far from heartfelt but at least makes an effort toward creating a quartet of distinct individuals with their own issues. Here? The beer-soaked ping pong balls show more well-rounded character than do our quartet of dudes. But hey, at least we’re encouraged to cheer on the smirking skeeze pictured above as he deflowers a preacher’s daughter.
The less said about the soundtrack the better, too, as the first film’s catchy radio hits are replaced with an in-film song called “In the Buff” that inexplicably becomes a viral hit. It’s annoying from its first appearance and only gets worse the more the movie repeats and celebrates it. And finally, it feels silly to complain about for a film like this, but the idea of the road trip itself is also extremely lacking. The sub-genre is one with immense potential, something the original film takes full advantage of, but in addition to lacking scale and urgency the journey here is populated solely with manufactured and underwhelming antics.
Road Trip is a funny flick, and while some of the humor pushes back on society’s changing mores it delivers on its promise of laughs and exposed bathing suit areas. Toss in a solid late-90s soundtrack and you have a film that’s dated but still entertaining. I don’t know if Beer Pong was funny upon its release in 2009, but a decade later it’s a flat-line devoid of laughs and wholly uncreative with its naughty bits. Whether the screen is filled with topless women or our clothed leads, it’s just boobs for boobs’ sake.
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