Last night, I was doing what I call “research,” which amounts to procrastinating on movie news sites (it totally counts, I swear!), when I discovered the rather disturbing news that a new American Pie – American Reunion – is in production.
And so I have to ask… do we really need or even want a new American Pie film?
What made the first raunchy teen flick interesting for me personally was how it explored the stereotype of young men reaching manhood through sex… specifically emotionless, casual sex that includes manipulating and objectifying the women they are with. At the end of the film, the main characters have gone to some crazy extremes to lose their virginity, only to have their expectations dashed. Chris Klein’s character ends up in a meaningful relationship, his “first time” an expression of his feelings for her and vice versa. Thomas Ian Nicholas’ character finally sleeps with his girlfriend (after some slight manipulation), only for her to take control of the relationship and break up with him. Both Jason Biggs and Eddie Kaye Thomas’ characters lose their virginities too, but to adventurous, more experienced women confident in their sexuality. At the end of the film, the guys let go of some of their misconceptions of women and sex.
The second one explored this idea of needing to be a man through sex again, specifically in Jason Biggs character. He hasn’t had sex since prom night in the first film, so the now “college man” feels like he’s not being a real man until he has sex again, hopefully with Shannon Elizabeth’s foreign sexpot stereotype. But he ends up falling for the still sexually confident and independent Alyson Hannigan. It becomes less about him having sex again and more about finding an equal in a partner. Thomas Ian Nicholas’s character assumes his ex-girlfriend will want to get back with him because he’s a catch, only to find out she’s moved on. He finally admits to Biggs that he too hasn’t had sex since prom night and admits to himself that he was more emotionally invested in his past relationship than he let on (you know, like he was a woman or something!). The other guys don’t have as much growth, although Chris Klein is still faithful to his girlfriend in this one, despite the frustrations of a long distance relationship.
I’m not saying you can’t just enjoy these two films for their raunchy humor; I get that there are fans of those kinds of films. But what made these two movies interesting for those of us not particularly interested in gross-out/sex comedies is this underlining idea that these preconceived notions about women and sex that get passed onto teenage boys are false, and these guys have no idea what they’re talking about. Actually, they’re saying these kind of sex comedies don’t know what they’re talking about either. It’s scary, but the film franchise that made “milf” a common term also makes a rather pro-feminist statement on what society teaches boys about masculinity and women as objects.
Now, we get to the until now last of the American Pie films (no, I’m not counting the straight-to-DVD crapfests), American Wedding. Biggs and Hannigan are getting married, and besides the occasional screwball accident involving their future in-laws, there really isn’t much growth for their characters. Actually, little to no tension for these two characters at all. This has the least objectifying of women in it, the majority of it coming from Stifler, AKA Mr. Unlikeable. If I recall – it’s been a long time since I saw the film – Stifler ultimately learns his lesson after he falls for a bridesmaid, but it’s not like we can really relate to him because he’s been such an over-the-top unlikable character throughout the series.
The four main characters might have been ignorant and even chauvanistic, but they weren’t completely awful and their character growth felt natural. Of course, with all four (no wait, only three, since Chris Klein’s character apparently went into the crack in time and was erased from existance) of the main characters grown into mature, mostly responsible adults with pretty respectful view towards women, where could they have gone with them in American Wedding? Nicholas’ character even mentioned not wanting a lap dance from strippers because he has a girlfriend, which in sex comedies is close to sainthood. With these slightly more realistic characters grown up already, the only person left to “character develop” is the biggest stereotype of the whole series… except for Shannon Elizabeth’s sexpot, I guess. It ended up being a pretty weak, boring film, filled almost entirely with all the gross/sexy moments they couldn’t cram into the earlier two films.
So, now we’re to the fourth film, which is all about the gang getting together for their high school reunion. I guess I give them credit for giving the characters an understandable reason to get together after such a long time, but is there anywhere else for these characters to go? Maybe people who like raunchy teen comedies will like it, but these characters haven’t been teenagers in a long time. We’re talking about raunchy suburban 30-somethings, which just seems pathetic now.
The first two movies had these really strong messages about sex and gender amid the premature ejaculation and crap jokes… without something to say, this movie is going to be just like American Wedding: bland, unoriginal and sad.