Let’s Talk About… American Pie

I love Teen flicks. There’s few genres I love more than a Teen flick. I’d say maybe Slasher films but let’s be honest, slasher movies are just teen flicks with death in it. Being a child of the 90’s there are two major teen flicks in my life. Can’t Hardly Wait and American Pie.

Those two films are to kids of the 90’s what Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire were to the kids of the 80’s. I could write for hours about Can’t Hardly Wait. Not only have I written an article in the past about it, but I’ve also interviewed writer/director Harry Elfont on podcast. My point being, I’ve already covered most of that, but I’ve never really discussed the importance of American Pie for any site, not Geekscape, not my blog, not my podcast. So let’s kick off my first Farsighted article with something special.

In 1999 American Pie came out at the time that world needed it. The 80’s were a time filled with classic and memorable 80’s teen flicks. When films like Clueless and Can’t Hardly Wait started popping up it began a return to the genre. The only downside was no one was willing to take a risk on a R-rated Teen comedy… until American Pie came around.

Can’t Hardly Wait was the first film to properly show us how high schoolers of the 90’s looked but American Pie properly showed us how they spoke to each other. Can’t Hardly Wait beautifully showed us the extreme cliches, it’s fun to watch it and remember when kids dressed like Kenny Fisher or Mike Dexter. It showed us all those things you expect in a teen flick. The Geek, the Jock, the Wigger, the stoners… American Pie showed us something else. If Can’t Hardly Wait was about the cliches, American Pie is about the people who are extras in a high school movie.

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I remember renting American Pie the summer before high school, it blew me away how much it reminded me of my own friends. I mean you have this group of four friends who are those cliches. One is a jock, one is a little nerdy but the difference is that the jock isn’t a SUPER JOCK and the nerd isn’t a SUPER NERD it was a representation of what you normally find in high school someone who is nerdy but still accepted not beaten down with daily ridicule like William Lichter (although there were people like that too).

What’s most impressive to me of the American Pie franchise is that they’ve hit a homerun 3.5 times out of 4 (yes I’m going to ignore the direct-to-DVD releases). Let’s break these four films down a bit.

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In the beginning there was American Pie. The film beautifully covers the sexual struggles of a typical high schooler. Sex is on your mind and you pursue it anyway you can, but unlike films like Porkys of the past where every man (except for one) is a stud we have four virgins from various cliches who despite everything have remained good friends. The film has always represented for me those wonderful naive times in high school with friends in the pursuit for sex, but also it’s one of the only films to properly represent how much prom sucks, something no other film has done before that or since really. So that’s an extra bonus.

American Pie 2 rolls in and while I’m in the minority here I genuinely think it’s a little better than the original. The pursuit of sex is still there for a few characters but the most interesting story concept is sadly glazed over. The film is also about accepting that sometimes high school is where some people peak. It’s been a year since high school and while our characters love being in college there’s still this element of characters longing for the things they lost, be it an ex-girlfriend, a missed connection or a long distance relationship. There’s a beautiful deleted scene where Kevin leaves the party and returns to the high school. He tries to open his old locker only to discover the combination is changed. It’s such a simple moment and I understand why for pacing reasons this was removed but it’s really a tragedy that it’s gone. That singular moment spoke volumes to me in college. Hold on to your college memories, but don’t cling to them.

Now we hit the rough patch, American Wedding. Every American Pie fan wanted to see Jim and Michelle married, they were that perfectly goofy and nerdy couple. But there are things in this movie that simply don’t work. For starters Oz is missing for not explainable reason. American Reunion has a second throwaway line about “missing the wedding” but for 13 years we’re left wondering the story behind the following out between these friends that left Oz uninvited to his best friends wedding. Also Stifler goes from a lovable asshole into one of the most obnoxious characters ever committed to film. Despite these faults the movie still manages to have some genuinely big laughs in it and the relationship with Michele and Jim is believable enough that it genuinely hits you on an emotional level when they finally exchange vows and get married.

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The final piece comes in American Reunion a film that came out just a year before my 10 year reunion. After American Wedding I had felt like the characters had overstayed their welcome in my life. American Reunion however reminded me all the reasons that I loved these characters 14 years earlier.

Now that I’m 10 years out of high school rewatching and reflecting on high school I realized something. There’s a secret accidental brilliance with Oz’s absence in American Wedding. There’s an impressively long list of people that I was close to in high school, who I drifted apart from in college, missed their wedding since they were just an aquaintance in my life but reconnected a few years later. One of the most frustrating elements in 2003 for me was I could not wrap my head around where Oz could possibly be without an explanation. In 2014, it makes complete and total sense to me.

Here I am, 15 years after first meeting these crazy characters feeling like they’re old friends that I can’t wait to have another slice of pie with.

Matt Kelly

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