American Pie: Reunion Review: The Wonder Years

AMERICAN PIE: REUNION (15): On General Release Wednesday May 2nd

The original American Pie was a massive hit back in 1999 and showed that writer Adam Hertz had a keen grasp of his target audience (in fact the original title when it was pitched to execs was “Untitled Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made For Under $10 Million That Most Readers Will Probably Hate But I Think You Will Love”).

Since then, the series has been subject to the law of diminishing returns – American Pie 2 wasn’t as funny, American Pie 3 was desperate and its numerous direct-to-DVD spin-offs have done nothing to enhance its reputation.

As for its cast members, well they’ve mostly not done that much either, with Seann William Scott the only one to carve anything like a memorable career for himself (although often playing variants on his Stifler character).

Well, with a (mostly) complete returning cast, can the fourth theatrical instalment and a script by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (the directors and scribes behind the Harold & Kumar series) raise a chuckle or will it be like most reunions?  – a chance to glower at people you never liked at school anyway.

The gang’s all present and correct at least, although their sexual escapades are somewhat limited these days. Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alysson Hannigan) find that a dampener’s been put on their sexy times ever since the birth of their son; Oz (Chris Klein) is caught up in a successful but unfulfilling job as a famous sports presenter and is in an unsatisfying relationship with his gorgeous but shallow girlfriend; Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) has become the world’s hairiest housewife and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has been on so many adventures that it’s left him no time to settle down.

As for everyone’s favourite potty-mouthed party on legs Stifler (Seann William Scott), he’s mostly unchanged, but struggling to come to terms with the fact that high school doesn’t last forever and life can’t be one everlasting party.

It rides in on a massive tide of nostalgia and good will.  The original American Pie was the teen sex comedy to see in the late 90s and it practically defined the genre for an entire generation (and even popularised the acronym MILF, which is now common parlance). As such, it’s a reunion not only for the characters but for anyone who grew up with the franchise.

We instantly know and love these characters and another movie with them feels like seeing old friends who you used to have a good time with and haven’t seen in ages.  So when characters exhibit the traits that they’re known for – Jim embarrassing himself, Jim’s dad embarrassing Jim, Stifler being a smart-mouthed walking cock, Stifler’s mom pouting seductively as ever – it’s not just funny, it’s comforting.

That also makes it easy to forgive it every time it goes off the boil.  American Reunion is at times very very funny but for every belly laugh, there’s 10 minutes where not a lot happens and many of the jokes just aren’t funny enough.   In fact, so much of the enjoyment of American Reunion is a familiarity with the series – its characters, its set ups and even its dialogue –  that it’s difficult to tell if those who didn’t love it the first time round will really get much out of it now or if it’ll appeal to new viewers.

Part of what made the original so successful was that the characters were so inexperienced and approaching sex for the first time (from a variety of angles).  The limitation of American Reunion is that those characters are past the point where those things would be a giggling taboo.  So, while it doesn’t do anything new or break any new ground, it’s absolutely first class fan-service.

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