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American Pie / American Wedding / American Reunion


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#1 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 02:35 PM

Is it okay to admit that I've seen American Wedding?

It's hard to believe four years have gone by since the original American Pie came out. It came out in the summer of 1999, at the height of the teensploitation craze that Scream had kicked off in the early months of 1997; that was also the same summer that gave us the South Park movie, so R-rated gross-out and bad-taste jokes were also in vogue then.

Since then, the teensploitation fad has died out, and films that revel in body-fluid jokes and the like are not as popular as they once were. (It will be interesting to see how Scary Movie 3 does when it comes out later this year.) And so, even the American Pie movies are growing up -- sort of -- but since the newest film has to retain the vulgarity of the first film, otherwise fans of the franchise are bound to be disappointed, it ends up feeling kind of schizophrenic and half-hearted.

Consider. The first film was about four high-school seniors who make a pact to lose their virginities by prom night. Much carefree mayhem ensues. We can and should decry the sexual promiscuity that is rampant among teenagers, and the obsession they have with sheer, objectifying, hormonal lust over more inter-personal factors such as love, and the way the film depicts some of the characters achieving "success" at the last minute by having spur-of-the-moment sex with total strangers, etc., but at the very least, I think we can admit there is something CONSISTENT between this sort of comedy and the social setting of the first film.

In the third film, three of these boys are still around, but one of them (Jason Biggs) is getting married, and another one (Thomas Ian Nicholas) has a girlfriend who we never see, but apparently she has strict rules concerning what is appropriate for each of them to do when the other person is not around; the third character (Eddie Kaye Thomas), meanwhile, is not above flirting with strippers, but he spends most of the film trying to woo the first guy's sister-in-law-to-be. (Chris Klein, the one actor of the four who already had a viable career thanks to movies like Election and has since gone on to We Were Soldiers and the like, didn't come back for this film.) So the sheer raunch factor, the unattached lust of the first film, doesn't quite fit here.

Hence, the film devotes a LOT of time to Stifler (Seann William Scott), the arrogant sex maniac of the first two films who typically ends up imbibing some sort of bodily excretion or other. He used to be a fairly minor character, but this film is arguably more about him, and the possibility that he might become more of a genuine human being, than it is about the Biggs character and his upcoming wedding. Alas, Stifler's story falls back on too many cliches, like the scene where the girl he's been trying to impress happens to overhear him bragging about how he's gonna get laid and She Sees Him For Who He Really Is, etc. (Incidentally, the Biggs character's fiancee is the band-camp geek who "used" him on prom night in the first film -- she, too, used to be just a one-note joke, but now she has been elevated to full-fledged "character" status, too.)

I think it was Elvis Mitchell in the New York Times who said that this film's attempts to gross the audience out seem almost "quaint", and I would certainly agree with that. The attempts are also pretty contrived -- I mean, take the scene that y'all may have seen in the trailer, where the Biggs character shaves his pubic hair and then dumps it out the window, after which the wind promptly blows it into people's mouths and onto the wedding cake. Considering he shaved himself in a BATHROOM, one might think the guy's first instinct might be to flush the hair down the toilet, rather than to open a window where everyone could see him.

The thing that I have always, but always, liked about these films -- and about the recent wave of teensploitation films in general -- is the sympathy they have for the parents. (My favorite film of this genre in this regard was probably 10 Things I Hate About You.) Watching Eugene Levy as the Biggs character's dad, you never, ever doubt his love for his son or his desire to understand his son, even as he catches his son in embarrassing situations or offers the occasional bit of bad advice. My favorite moment in American Wedding comes when the bride-to-be has trouble writing her vows and she asks Levy for advice; she tells him something like, "Jim says you're always there for him when he needs help," and the camera cuts to Levy's face and we can see how touched he is to hear this, as he replies, "Jim said that?" It's a subtle moment, and you're pretty sure the bride-to-be didn't even notice the effect her words had on her father-in-law-to-be, and you know that Jim and his dad will probably never say anything quite that direct to each other, but it's PRECISELY the sort of moment that I go to the movies for.

Speaking of Levy, I find it intriguing that all three of these American Pie movies have featured cameos by Jennifer Coolidge, who plays Stifler's mom in these films and co-starred in the mockumentaries Best in Show and A Mighty Wind which Levy co-wrote with Christopher Guest. American Wedding makes the Christopher Guest connection even stronger, since Fred Willard shows up as the father of Jim's bride-to-be! (Apparently, the wedding preparations mark the first time that Jim has even MET his girlfriend's parents, even though they have gone out for THREE YEARS.) And on that folky, Mighty Wind kind of note, it's also odd to consider that American Wedding was directed by Jesse Dylan, son of Bob.

One last bit of useless trivia: When Stifler is asked to hold on to the wedding ring and he thinks he's lost it, as he fumbles around in his pocket, the girl he's trying to impress calls him "Frodo". Ah, yes, now Tolkien's creations have REALLY saturated the culture. :)

Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 11 April 2011 - 11:20 PM.


#2 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 05:38 PM

I like what you say here, but I have also fallen under the spell of these flicks. Levy has always been an earnest and loving island of sorts in the mayhem of these things. I think he is never better than in this installment. I found myself constantly checking for Jim's Dad's reaction whenever he was in the scene. Ditto Willard. Been a fan since "Fernwood Tonight".

I almost walked out during Stifler's early scenes, but enjoyed his attempts at nice guy stuff. Ironically, I got the impression that the Frodo reference went right over Stifler's head. What I've wanted all along, though was more focus on Finch. He seemed just as befuddled as everyone else, but was way more imaginative at getting in and out of trouble. They say that "Wedding" is the conclusion, but I would love to see "American Match" as the securely wedded couple attempt to find a mate for Finch as all freshly wedded couples seem feel is their duty to rescuable single friends (Stifler is beyond hope and should only be kept within striking distance for his inherited wealth).

I tended to set aside the schizo nature of this installment because of the nature of much of the extremes. It has been my contention from the beginning that the over the top bawdiness disguises a soft hearted attempt to show the folly of adolescent obsession with sex. The spiritual heart of the films has been Jim and Michelle from 2 on. I was quite moved by Jim's last minute switch from Nadia to Michelle after a summer long buildup. It seemed so uncommomly clearheaded of him that it had the affect of a sort of conversion as opposed to something out of character from out of nowhere.

#3 Anders

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 06:30 PM

Well, I guess I won't feel so bad about wanting to go see this one. I actually kinda liked the first two films, but find them difficult to explain to my Christian friends what I see in them because of some of the problematic ingredients. Anyway, yeah. Maybe I'll go see this one sometime this summer.

#4 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 06:53 PM

Rich Kennedy wrote:
: What I've wanted all along, though was more focus on Finch. He seemed
: just as befuddled as everyone else, but was way more imaginative at
: getting in and out of trouble. They say that "Wedding" is the conclusion,
: but I would love to see "American Match" as the securely wedded couple
: attempt to find a mate for Finch as all freshly wedded couples seem feel
: is their duty to rescuable single friends (Stifler is beyond hope and
: should only be kept within striking distance for his inherited wealth).

Oh. My. Goodness.

I wonder if the creators of this franchise are reading this.

I have heard that this film took the shape it did partly because, after high school hijanks and college vacations, the next big opportunity for gross-out humour was bachelor parties, and in order to have one of those, they had to have a wedding. I was wondering if there might be some other opportunity looming on the horizon after this, and I think you might have found one. Might.

But you have to admit, the relationship between Jim and Michelle still revolves around what makes them, and especially her, "horny" -- so I don't know if they would be the best people to pick a match for Finch. The shallowness of the relationship between Jim and Michelle was amusing enough in the context of high schoolers getting their freak on, but I never found the second film's attempts to make them a couple all that convincing, and the third film, rather than deepen their relationship, almost avoids dealing with it in favour of pumping in more footage of Stifler. (SPOILER ALERT) And especially now that it seems EVERY film has to end with Finch hooking up with Stifler's mom, it could make finding a permanent mate for him somewhat difficult.

: It has been my contention from the beginning that the over the top
: bawdiness disguises a soft hearted attempt to show the folly of
: adolescent obsession with sex.

Agreed; in my article on the first film for Books & Culture, I think I made a similar point:
Scenes such as the one in which Jim's father (Eugene Levy) catches him with the pie give teens an opportunity to laugh both with and at the main character: they laugh with him because they can identify with him to some degree and, thus, laugh at themselves and put their own foibles in some perspective; they laugh at him because most of them have never done anything quite so desperate. There, but for the grace of God, go they.
I don't say it in that article, but from the beginning, I have said that, if I had a teenaged son or daughter, I would not necessarily have blocked them from seeing this film but, rather, I would have allowed them to see it on the condition that we talk about it afterwards. I figure if they don't see it, their classmates are gonna tell them all about it anyway, so they might as well go to the primary source and know what they're talking about -- and then, rather than protect them from the evils of popular culture, I could try to help them to discern the good from the bad in popular culture. Of course, it would depend to some degree on the children themselves, and since I don't actually HAVE any, this is all entirely hypothetical. But one of my arguments from the beginning was that teens, like all people, need to be able to see themselves on the screen, and given that they are going through all these weird hormonal changes, they may very well need to see some of THAT on the screen, too -- so my job as a parent would be primarily to tell them HOW to see, not WHAT to see.

#5 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 06:58 PM

Peter T Chattaway wrote:
: But one of my arguments from the beginning was that teens, like all
: people, need to be able to see themselves on the screen, and given that
: they are going through all these weird hormonal changes, they may
: very well need to see some of THAT on the screen, too . . .

This, BTW, is one of the reasons I'm not so sure the gross-out humour works this time around -- apart from the fact that the gags are more contrived in this film than they were in the first film, the whole hormonal thing is also not quite as much of a, um, vital issue to people in their mid- or even early 20s as it is for people in their teens.

#6 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 05 August 2003 - 05:26 AM

Rich Kennedy wrote:
Oh. My. Goodness.

I wonder if the creators of this franchise are reading this.


Well, in my heh,analysis of the second on thefilmforum, I suggested that if they could keep it fresh, there'd be untold possibilities for sequals, "American Pie 5: The Divorces" would have been jumping the shark.

I have heard that this film took the shape it did partly because, after high school hijanks and college vacations, the next big opportunity for gross-out humour was bachelor parties, and in order to have one of those, they had to have a wedding. I was wondering if there might be some other opportunity looming on the horizon after this, and I think you might have found one. Might.


Was it Ebert & Roeper who suggested (in what they seemed to bill as an unprecidented 2nd week followup tease) that a good "4" would be Willard and Levy cut loose getting ready for their grandkid.

FWIW, at the end of "2", Jim ditches Nadia for reasons other than horniness, though unstated, for Michelle. Taken as an organic whole, I see the "horniness" as a byproduct of some (nerdy?) compatibility that they have.[/i]

#7 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 25 October 2003 - 08:02 PM

Peter T Chattaway wrote:
: Since then, the teensploitation fad has died out, and films
: that revel in body-fluid jokes and the like are not as popular as
: they once were. (It will be interesting to see how Scary
: Movie 3 does when it comes out later this year.)

Yikes. Yikes yikes yikes yikes yikes. I have not seen Scary Movie 3, so I cannot say just HOW gross it is (though the fact that it is rated PG-13 -- whereas the first two films were such solidly R-rated flicks it was a wonder the first one, at least, wasn't rated NC-17 -- suggests that the new film won't be any more gross than an Austin Powers flick) ... but the estimates are in for Friday already, and in one day alone, Scary Movie 3 grossed (um, no pun intended) $18.5 million. So basically, this movie could outgross Scary Movie 2 (total domestic gross: $71.3 million) by the end of the week, at which point it would be half-way towards catching up to the original Scary Movie (total domestic gross: $157 million).

#8 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 03:28 PM

An Update on the Planned American Pie 4
ComingSoon.net had a chance to talk with the always-ebullient producer Craig Perry earlier today to find out the status of the planned American Pie 4, which is being written and directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and its sequel), and he gave us an update of the project that's neither a reboot or a remake, but an actual sequel to the hit R-rated comedy trilogy that came out between 1999 and 2003.
"Like anything, if they're going to go back to it, they want to get it right," he told us. "Hurwitz and Schlossberg, the guys who did 'Harold & Kumar' are going to direct and I'm hoping to have something to look at it in the New Year. We'll see when that fits in. As you can imagine, a lot of it has to do with scheduling of the actors because they're all busy. Alyson (Hannigan's) got the show and the baby, so she's got plenty on her plate, so there's a lot of people who have a lot of things to do, and I think if we get a script--which I think we will--that everybody is excited about it, and then it's going to be about the schedule, because it's going to be really hard to get that gang back together. Because I think that's one of the things - we want to get everybody back together then you've got to do it right." . . .
ComingSoon.net, December 1, 2010

Exclusive: Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Eugene Levy Reunite for New 'American Pie'
Key members of the original cast of "American Pie" will reunite for "American Reunion," which will bring the popular franchise back to movie theaters, rather than direct-to-DVD, TheWrap has learned.
Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott and Eugene Levy are already signed, with Universal in negotiations with Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Chris Klein, Mena Suvari and Jennifer Coolidge. The studio is hoping to bring back most of the original cast. . . .
The Wrap, March 16, 2011

- - -

Gadzooks, it's been over a dozen years since these kids finished high school, and nearly as long since they went to college. Do we really want to see adolescent hijinks among a bunch of newly-minted thirtysomethings? (Well, okay, given the Judd Apatow movies of the last few years, adolescent thirtysomethings are something of a commonality these days. But still.)

I mean, come to think of it, didn't the Biggs character marry the Alyson Hannigan character in the third film? Shouldn't they have kids by now or something? (Hmmm, poopy diapers... now there's a possible angle...) But The Wrap doesn't list Hannigan as one of the actors who is currently in negotiations with the studio. Why not, I wonder?

#9 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 11:21 PM

Alyson Hannigan Back For 'American Reunion'
Hannigan was the question mark among the original cast when stories about the sequel began popping up. She had the leverage for a nice piece of the pie because the story revolves around her marriage and child with Jason Biggs' character.
Deadline.com, April 11

#10 old wave

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 03:50 PM

Is there a particular reason why anyone involved in A&F should care about a 4th American Pie movie? What's the motivation for posting updates about it? I'm not trying to be rude, just asking.

#11 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 04:05 PM

old wave wrote:
: Is there a particular reason why anyone involved in A&F should care about a 4th American Pie movie?

You mean, apart from the fact that, as noted above, at least one person here at A&F has fond memories of writing about the first American Pie for Books & Culture and a few other Christian outlets way back when?

: What's the motivation for posting updates about it? I'm not trying to be rude, just asking.

It's not something I plan to get obsessive about -- I don't plan to post EVERY bit of casting news about this film -- but I do think it's interesting to see how fictitious characters like these have "grown up" in tandem with their audiences (sometimes in a good way, a la Toy Story 3, and sometimes in a not-so-good way, a la Little Fockers), and I posted the last bit of casting news because it gave the first indication that I have seen anywhere that the new film will specifically revolve around the protagonist from the first film becoming a father.

#12 old wave

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 05:58 PM

old wave wrote:
: Is there a particular reason why anyone involved in A&F should care about a 4th American Pie movie?

You mean, apart from the fact that, as noted above, at least one person here at A&F has fond memories of writing about the first American Pie for Books & Culture and a few other Christian outlets way back when?



Yes.



#13 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 07:00 PM

Well, you might want to look at the content of those writings, then (to say nothing of the extra reasons I already mentioned in my previous post, which for some reason you deleted from your reply).

The fact that at least three A&Fers were involved in this thread back when the third American Pie movie came out might also be indicative of broader interest in this "franchise" as a whole, here, too.

#14 Christian

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 11:55 AM

Consider. The first film was about four high-school seniors who make a pact to lose their virginities by prom night.


Warning! Explicit discussion ahead.

I had posted in a dedicated thread for the first film about a month ago, which I now can't find, but wanted to follow up here. This thread title mentions the sequel, American Reunion, which I see tonight.

As for the first movie, I was surprised that a movie about kids trying to lose their virginity would show the same kids having frequent oral sex with each other. Needless to say, this is NOT the same type of teen-sex comedy I saw as a teen, when no one was gettin' any sort of sex. It was a little hard to relate to kids who are sexually gratifying each other but still desperate to lose their "virginity."

The movie gave me a better idea of why, when I expressed shock at the explicit sexuality of "Black Swan" just a couple of years ago and wondered when oral sex had been normalized on screen, Peter sort of shook his head and wondered whether I'd been paying attention to contemporary movies. "American Pie" was released in 1999.

The other thing that stood out to me in "American Pie" was the use of the term "MILF," which I had thought had been coined by "30 Rock."

I'm so behind.

#15 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 07:10 PM

FWIW, in honour (if that's the word) of the release of American Reunion a couple weeks back, I posted an interview I did with Eugene Levy back in 2001, which was actually related to another film called Down to Earth (directed by the same guys who made the first American Pie), but touched on the role that Levy played in creating his American Pie character, too.

Incidentally, the trailers for American Reunion had me deeply worried that they were going to take Jim's Dad in a direction that would not, to me, have felt true to the character -- but I'm happy to say that the movie didn't go there.

Christian wrote:
: I was surprised that a movie about kids trying to lose their virginity would show the same kids having frequent oral sex with each other. Needless to say, this is NOT the same type of teen-sex comedy I saw as a teen, when no one was gettin' any sort of sex. It was a little hard to relate to kids who are sexually gratifying each other but still desperate to lose their "virginity."

Y'know, that's a good point -- but I had seen so few sex comedies when I was a teen (I'm the same basic age as you, right?) that I never really noticed this difference before.

: The other thing that stood out to me in "American Pie" was the use of the term "MILF," which I had thought had been coined by "30 Rock."

I have a feeling it was coined by the makers of American Pie itself; at any rate, I don't believe I had ever heard the term before. (Oh, but Wikipedia says the term first came up on the internet and was POPULARIZED by American Pie; Wikipedia even links to an archival alt.mag.playboy post from 1995 -- 1995! -- in which someone says "We have a term for it around here...", which suggests the term is at least slightly older than THAT.)

Oh, and get a load of the MILF disambiguation page at Wikipedia. I burst out laughing when I got to the fourth item on the list.

#16 Christian

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 07:28 PM

Y'know, that's a good point -- but I had seen so few sex comedies when I was a teen (I'm the same basic age as you, right?) that I never really noticed this difference before.


Yeah, I'm 41. I think you are, too. Maybe a year younger than I am?

Oh, and get a load of the MILF disambiguation page at Wikipedia. I burst out laughing when I got to the fourth item on the list.

Hah! The "30 Rock" writers oughta work THAT into one of their episodes!

#17 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 07:45 PM

Christian wrote:
: Yeah, I'm 41. I think you are, too. Maybe a year younger than I am?

Nope, 41 here, too. (Until October, at any rate.)

Oh, one other thing I forgot to mention about American Reunion: One of the subplots concerns a girl who has waited until her 18th birthday to have sex with... well, with her boyfriend, officially, but she eventually comes on to Jim (of course), and Jim, who is married, tries to talk her out of it by saying that losing one's virginity is a Very Special Thing that shouldn't be treated so casually. He's saying this, of course, in a panic, so it's all treated as comedy etc., but the fact remains that (SPOILER ALERT!) the girl in question never does have sex with anybody, at least not by the end of the movie. A sign of creeping conservatism? A sign that the real focus of the film -- including its sexual focus -- is the now-adults (who would have to be around 30 now, right?) and not actual teenagers any more?