Saturday, 2 June 2012

American Pie: Reunion

Summer 2012

Genre: Comedy Sequel.

Starring: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian-Nicholas, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari, Seann William-Scott, Natasha Lyonne, Shannon Elizabeth, Jon Chow. With Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge and Rebecca de Mornay.

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 113 mins. approx.

Seen At: ADVANCED SCREENING: PrintWorks Odeon. Manchester – Tuesday, 24th April 2012.

When the original American Pie was released back in 1999, is was the prominent leader in a cluster of high-school, so-called ‘sex-comedies’ – raunchier materiel than the same year’s milder modern reworking of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew – 10 Things I Hate About You. Critics also dubbed this now classic series for a whole generation, as a continuation of the distinctly nineties flurry of ‘gross-out’ comedies, notably started by the Farrelly Brothers with the likes of There’s Something About Mary in 1998, Never Been Kissed, 2000’s Dude, Where’s My Car?, and even Scary Movie - the popular spoof series of another definitively American cinematic cult- product of the nineties – Scream. Such was the sudden demand, a spoof of its own – 2002’s Not Another Teen Movie mercilessly sent-up the conventions of what was by now a tried-and tested genre.
   Nine year’s since ‘The Wedding’ – each of the character’s arcs have moved on considerably. Jim and Michelle now have a toddler, Oz is now a popular Sports News presenter while Heather has a new boyfriend, and Kevin’s now married. Ironically, the most successful is Steve Stifler – played by the scene-stealing Seann William Scott. He now works for an investment firm, but that has done nothing to dampen his, shall we say, ‘unique’ opinions.
 I think the enduring appeal of these films is the combination of a definitive generational demographic – a target market within the thirteen to thirty bracket, who grew up with the series, and wanting to see how the characters have changed. It feels like they’ve never been away, a very naturalistic recalibration of sorts, at the same time exaggerated just enough for comic effect, but the ensemble’s fun at being back together off-screen, translates well on-screen.
  I’m so delighted and refreshed to say that this is the funniest of the four – taking the levels of its comedy to new heights, really drawing on the same tone and pacing of the original, both in terms of the many scenarios very much accentuating their visual humour without ever descending into gratuity or slapstick, but also letting the audience be in on the joke ahead of the characters. It’s this dramatic irony which I think works brilliantly well, that keeps teenagers in their many numbers coming back.  I should say that I was lucky enough to see this at an advancing screening, almost two weeks ahead of its general release, with the cinema almost two-thirds full of people of exactly the intended age-range.
  Visually, the usual, many uncomfortable misunderstandings occur, involving ablutions in ice-boxes, incidents with dominatrix attire, cinema-shenanigans, saucepan-lids and the misuse of various gels...
  Screenplay-wise, the one-liners are as sharp as the ever were, mainly thanks to William-Scott who completely steals the show, but it’s great to see Chris Klein back as Oz as well, gleefully sending up the fact that his character was the victim of a shock axing from a Dancing With The Stars-like reality-show. Eugene Levy is pitch-perfect as ever as Jim’s Dad - with those inimitable eyebrows - and we mustn’t forget the sassy Jennifer Coolidge as of course – Stifler’s Mom (!) – but be prepared for a brand new spin on that great tradition...
   I’m hoping they’ll be a fifth installment, but it does seem to draw to rather a neat conclusion. That said, it’s great that every cast member from the original is back (including the supporting roles such as the hilarious Jon Chow) and they’re certainly not afraid of sending themselves up, for what is a very funny, almost boundary-pushing chapter, in a hugely populist audience favourite... 

Rating: * * *

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