Thirteen years ago, the American Pie crew were the poster boys and girls for rude and crude teens everywhere. Here was a gloriously and uproariously bad taste movie about rites of passage and the passage of bodily fluids that resuscitated the tarnished name of the teen sex romp following the sad days of Porky's.
However, the joke soon wore off over two follow-up servings of Pie and where exactly do Stifler, Jim, Oz, Finch, Vicky and Michelle figure in a comedy world run by Judd Apatow and crude-but-smart movies like The Hangover and Bridesmaids? Is American Pie not so much cooling on the windowsill as completely frozen over?
The franchise strikes back but doesn’t mess with the recipe in this enjoyable fourth outing in which the gang return home for their school reunion. We reacquaint ourselves with the crew as they put away childish things and face into the realities of adulthood – Jim (Biggs) and Michelle (Hannigan) are married with a baby on board and a dormant sex life; Oz (Klein) is a semi-famous sports anchor with a hot-but-dumb girlfriend; Finch is a badass adventurer; and Kevin works a dull grind as an architect.
But there is no Pie without the man who made the first movie worthwhile all those years ago - Stifler. The manchild with the elastic face and filthy mind is also back and he’s as boorish, dumb and utterly charmless as ever. Yes, Stifler is still the man we hate to love. But the producers (Seann William Scott among them) know that pratfalls, slapstick and gratuitous nudity are not enough this time out. A large part of the audience will have grown up with these characters and so a spot of poignancy is called for and you may even find yourself caring about these goofballs, losers, and schmucks.
Eugene Levy is, as ever, excellent as Jim’s dad, Noah, a kind of 15A rated Mr Brady from The Brady Bunch and the marvellously louche Jennifer Coolidge steals her every scene as Stifler’s mom. But if the real stars of the first three movies were the titular pie and that flute here the props department is on hand with a glass saucepan lid, a showerhead, and a laptop case which snaps shut with excruciating results.
No surprises here then and only a few real laughs, but there’s still something warm and gooey in this American Pie.