In this matchup, the Movie Smackdown Arena has been converted into something that resembles the Iron Chefs’ Kitchen Stadium because we’re comparing an American culinary classic: Apple pie. Everyone loves a slice of warm, homemade apple pie, but which one is the best piece: the first or the last? If you ask Jim Levenstein, I think he’d say to just jump in headfirst and enjoy, but I wouldn’t recommend using the head that he did.
Yup, you figured me out. We’re not actually pitting pie versus pie, but rather American Pie vs. the fourth theatrical release (along with four direct-to-video films) in the Pie series, American Reunion, which brings back all our favorite East Great Falls High graduates to the big screen for their high school reunion.
Back when Pie came out, it was a tight comedy that made you want to be those kids with the sexual escapades and kick-ass parties. Fast forward ten years down the line with those same teens well into their adult years and we have our challenger, which aims to recapture the spark that made the original such a hit. Will the same raunchy dick and fart joke humor hold up with an older cast? Is it possible to create a teen comedy with actors who are no longer teens? That’s what we’re here to find out in this Great American Bash!
Jim, Kevin, Oz, Finch, Stifler, and the whole East Great Falls gang return home for their ten-year high school reunion that came three years late. As we saw in American Wedding, Jim ended up marrying his senior prom date, Michelle, and they had a son. Kevin got married and works from home as an architect. Oz moved out to Malibu and attained some measure of fame as a sports correspondent and a contestant on a celebrity dancing show. Finch traveled the world in search of adventure. And unlike all his friends who grew up and moved on with their lives, Stifler is still in East Great Falls working as a temp. Even though they all have (or should have) grown up, once they all get back together again, they get into the same hijinks that they did back in high school and college. Bringing back all the original cast members, American Reunion sets out to capture the magic that audiences fell in love with back in 1999.
I grew up watching this raunchy teen comedy series. Even though I’m a bit younger than the guys in the movie, as I grew, they grew with me on screen, so it was nice to catch up with everyone after nearly a decade has passed for them, and thirteen years for the rest of us. Just like the ’90s theme of the reunion itself, this slice of Pie tasted very nostalgic. Most of the cast slipped back into character with ease, especially Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott and Eugene Levy. Others, specifically Alyson Hannigan, had a bit of trouble holding onto the character they had played as teenagers, but not to a degree that hurt the film.
It’s interesting to note that while Reunion relied on some tried and true gags from other installments of the series, they were updated to fit the ages of the characters. Some bits were hits, but there were misses as well. Most of the hits came from Stifler, who was the one out of the group who didn’t really grow up, so his childish, juvenile antics fit the character. But Chris Klein, originally stereotyped as the sensitive guy, really stole some scenes by pushing the sensitive angle beyond the edge of hilarious cheesiness. It reminded me of his role in Just Friends, where he had some great comedic moments as well.
Overall, there were a lot of stories to handle in American Reunion. Tales of reigniting the spark after marriage, rekindling feelings of first love with varying degrees of success, and not living in the past were grander than the original plotlines, where the point was just to get laid. Because of this relative depth, some characters get neglected, but everyone gets at least a bit of a storyline, albeit clichéd ones about growing older.
American Pie has thrived as a mainstay in the teen comedy genre because it pushed the boundaries of how far a film like this could go. The movie follows four friends who make a pact to lose their virginity before the end of their senior year of high school. The audience rides with Jim, Kevin, Oz and Finch as they come so close to achieving their goal but always miss the mark. Along the way, we have iconic scenes like Jim having sex with a pie because he wanted to know what third base felt like, the birth of the phrase MILF (referring to Stifler’s mom), and Jim’s striptease for foreign exchange student Nadia.
The legacy of the first American Pie can be found in almost every teen comedy that came after it. The raunchy sex, the gratuitously exposed breasts, and the characters of the sensitive guy, the virgin and the awkward parent can be found in pretty much every film in the genre after the year 2000.
In addition to the lasting impact it had on the genre, the movie also helped launch the careers of young actors Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Chris Klein, Alyson Hannigan, Shannon Elizabeth, Mena Suvari and Tara Reid.
Both Pie movies focus on the same group of friends moving on to the next step in their lives together. In one, they aim to lose their virginity, and in the other, they set out to reconnect after spending years apart. These goals (especially in the new film) are pretty small, but the antics they enjoy on the way make the movies worthwhile. American Pie originated a lot of raunchy gags, but American Reunion has found a way to recreate the feeling of the original. Of course, the vulgarity isn’t for everybody, but very few films can do it like the American Pie movies.
The soundtracks of these films were almost as important as the gags. Pie brought songs from bands like Blink-182, Barenaked Ladies, Third Eye Blind, Hole and Everclear to wider audiences, making those songs hits and their artists staples of the genre as a whole. Just as the class of 1999 was brought back to their high school days, Reunion brings back much of the franchise’s song catalogue for nostalgia’s sake. But with an element of contemporary teenagers inserted into the new film, including Jim’s neighbor, a super hot high school senior who wants to lose her virginity to him, contemporary pop music by such acts as Cobra Starship, Ke$ha and LMFAO was thrown in to the mix as well. The film manages to blend old, beloved characters into the new world they’re now living in, and one way it accomplished that was musically. The only thing missing was a cameo from Blink-182 or at least a Blink song on the soundtrack.
Although the theme of growing up and moving on to the next step resonates through both movies, Reunion goes a bit deeper than that, balancing the same kind of fresh-but-familiar gross-out comedy that the original pioneered with some new territory, which mainly involves the tempting but dangerous temptation of living in the past.
Reunion was a passion project, specifically for executive producers Biggs and Scott, who were instrumental in getting the entire cast to return despite the now-different levels of their career status. I look at the film as a great piece of nostalgia for American Pie fans, even though, in essence, it used the same formula created by American Pie back in ’99. For the most part it worked. The good news is, American Reunion probably ranks third out of eight on my list of favorites from the series, following only the original and its sequel, American Pie 2. You can try to recreate a classic as many times as you want, but a classic is a classic for a reason. But there would be no reunion without the first slice of pie, which is why the winner of this Smackdown is American Pie.