Having a third helping of pie is always pushing it slightly. You know probably shouldn’t but when it tastes this good; why not? So when you are offered a fourth, it is downright gluttonous. That’s what we’ve done with American Reunion though. After nine years away from our screens, and thirteen since the first American Pie was released, it feels like a welcome surprise for our class of ’99-starved stomachs.
Let’s take a trip back to 1999. It was the year of the romantic comedy. Never Been Kissed, Notting Hill and Ten Things I Hate About You were just three of the hits that year. Among them was a comedy no one had anticipated. American Pie, a film about a group of high school seniors who make a pact to lose their virginities before graduation. It was quick, it was funny, the characters were relatable (to the point of embarrassment), and for the time the movie was outrageously raunchy and original. Naturally it spawned two hit sequels that were just as filthy as the first.
Nowadays with films like The Hangover and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, this type of comedy is the norm. Is the comedy in American Reunion too stale for the current market?
The answer is no for one reason – the original audience grew up with these characters. We want to know what they are up to. It has been nine years since we last saw them and it’s like going back and visiting old friends. Jim, Oz, Stifler, Finch, Vicky, Heather, Kevin, Michelle, Stifler’s mum, Jim’s dad – they are all staples of a generation’s teen years.
The fact that they managed to get the entire original cast back together, in whatever capacity, is astounding. Or perhaps not so remarkable, considering many of these actors might be in need of a comeback. Although, no doubt, they’d tell you it was the love of the character that drew them back to their roots. Set at their thirteen year high school reunion, American Reunion sees the gang come back together for one last bender for old times sake.
And boy do they come back with a bang. Anybody who is expecting them to be mature adults now with far less embarrassing tendencies … prepare to be wrong. The characters have matured of course (except perhaps Stifler), but ultimately they’re still getting themselves into the usual trouble.
Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are still together, but have a libido-killing two-year-old, Kevin is a house husband, Finch is his usual free-spirited self, Oz (who was absent from American Pie: The Wedding) is a sports newscaster, living with his vapid girlfriend after breaking up with Heather (Mena Suvari), and Stifler? Well, he’s still Stifler, except surprisingly less one-dimensional than his past incarnations. Reprised by Seann William Scott, he literally hasn’t changed in a world that has grown up without him, which is a source for both comedy and pity.
The whole film is strangely nostalgic. You almost feel like you are attending your own high school reunion. Only instead of joining in, you watch from the sidelines, figuring out everyone’s differences and what hasn’t changed. Personally I’d rather pay witness to this reunion than attend my own. I’ll freely admit I sat back with a silly smile on my face, playing ‘Spot the Shermanator'(Oh yes, he’s back!).
I am a fan of the originals though. There are many trips down memory lane in American Reunion, that might go over the heads of audience members who are brand new to the franchise. Fans by comparison will be waiting to see if Finch (Eddie Kay Thomas) will get with Stifler’s mum again – anticipating Jim’s dads embarrassing pep talks – laughing at the Shermanator locating one final victim for Shermanation – and mourning the break-up of the MILF duo’s friendship.
Without these references already set in my mind, the film might have fallen a little bit flat, because it relies heavily on them. And while this is true of any franchise, considering the gap between American Pie 3: The Wedding and American Reunion (almost a decade) it might have paid for the writers to have written it to stand on its own two feet.
Then again fans will see this regardless. It has everything you liked about the originals; slapstick, gross-out comedy, a never-before-seen part of Jason Biggs body, and a whole lot of heart. One highlight is watching Oz (Chris Klein) on a celebrity dance show. Prepare to be amazed by his killer hip hop moves (or lack thereof).
For the kids who have just stumbled across this franchise, enjoy it for what it is. For the adults who used American Pie as rebellion against parental censorship in their youth, well, it never hurts to have one last slice … for old times sake.
American Reunion is in UK cinemas from 2 May 2012.