In 1999 a simple, $11 million teen comedy took the world by storm and 13 years later American Pie has finally come full circle with the final instalment of the series, American Reunion. The life cycle of the American Pie franchise has mirrored the whole teen movie genre itself and here I will assess the short lived but highly popular group of movies which American Pie inspired and where we are now.
The first American Pie could not have asked for a simpler narrative: Four Boys aim to lose their virginity before prom. However, due to the strong script, likeable characters and countless iconic scenes the film took the genre to the next level, giving birth to something completely innovative and original, while taking $235 million worldwide at the box office.
Sure, there were teen movies in the 1980s and earlier with Revenge of the Nerds, Weird Science and the wonderful films of John Hughes but American Pie was a movie that truly captured the zeitgeist and truthfully showed American teenage life without beating around the bush. It was the first teen film that didn’t seem like it was written by an adult. Needless to say its pastry humping, webcam filming and semen drinking caused a wave of excitement across Hollywood and it wasn’t long before studios everywhere wanted a piece of that pie. (I’m so very sorry, but I couldn’t resist.)
The genre took an unprecedented ascension with film after film making huge stars out of unknown actors and throwing as much gross out comedy at audiences as possible. Not a week went by without a new title being released: Loser, Van Wilder: Party Liaison, Dude, Where’s my Car, Roadtrip, Eurotrip, American Pie 2, The New Guy, Cruel Intentions, She’s All That, Harold and Kumar, etc. The teen comedy even got its own parody with Not another Teen Movie showing how quickly and ubiquitously the genre had taken over. A lot of the actors and directors overlapped and the genre was becoming saturated. It was very easy and cheap to make these films and they were proven money-makers.
Something had to give and soon enough it did. By the time that American Pie: The Wedding was released, Hollywood and America had moved away for the most part from the teen comedy. It was veering closer to traditional rom-coms, the Frat pack films starring Stiller, Ferrell and the Wilson brothers and the R rated comedy of Judd Apatow which bought in the huge money and dominated the box-office. Productions such as The 40 year old Virgin and Anchorman were making huge sums of money and it started to seem that comedy had grown up, at least in terms of age as opposed to maturity.
A few teen comedies continued, there were the sequels to Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies and American Pie continued to produce five films that started to border on softcore pornography by American Pie presents Beta House. The only thing that associated the films with the American Pie franchise by this point were the title and Eugene Levy, even though they were American Pie Presents as opposed to American Pie. The most recent of the unofficial films have been shameless excuses to show as many breasts as possible. The plotlines are weak, the characters undeveloped and stereotypical to the extent they border on parody while the films resembling more a lads mag than a Hollywood production.
Despite all of this, it is still exciting to have a new American Pie with the entire original cast. Even though most of their careers declined as the genre did it is still good to see them all returning. The whole thing oozes nostalgia right down to the poster that mirrors the original and anyone who grew up with the films will be interested to see how the filmmakers approach the final instalment. Even though I doubt there will be a resurgence in the genre following the last piece of American Pie, I for one am going to enjoy the reminiscing about the films that dominated Hollywood at the beginning of the last decade and remembering the legacy that the original produced.