Meet the new ‘Pie,’ same as the old ‘Pie’
Ryan Summerlin April 11, 2012
For those wondering what ever happened to the “American Pie” gang of 1999, this fourquel finds its membership attending their 13th high school reunion. The gathering is an excuse for pals, Jim, (Jason Biggs), Oz (Chris Klein), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Stifler (Seann William Scott), to revisit their carefree youth – though the experience isn’t quite the same.
Scatalogical gags and off-color sexual humor mark a return to the formula carrying the first three films to box office success, while simultaneously underscoring the film’s point: we grow older, but frequently, not wiser.
Jim and high school sweetheart Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), are still married, but following the birth of their 2-year-old son, became sexless as a couple. Oz is a minor celebrity, but the strain of living with a shallow, young model is beginning to show. Meanwhile, Stifler is the same clueless hound-dog of his youth, and a chip off the old mom-block, as personified by Jennifer Coolidge playing his hot-to-trot mamma. Relegated to the fringes of the story, Kevin allows his reality-show-obsessed wife to schedule their lives around “The Housewives of,” and Finch claims to be a free-spirited, world traveler.
Each of the guys misrepresents himself to his pals, but we learn through the action that no one is without regrets.
The film is most concerned with Jim, who worries that his widower father (Eugene Levy), is lonely. He repeatedly turns down Dad’s request to spend time together so Jim can hang with his pals, but inadvertently helps dad out when he brings the old man to Stifler’s party.
The paper-thin story works best when placing its characters in crisis, and scripting them to react in unexpected ways. The best example finds Stifler reintroduced to a past sexual partner who has changed in more ways than Stifler could predict. In another, Jim is pursued by a lusty 18-year-old local girl. He does his best to resist her advances, but his situation becomes precarious when she winds up in his car, both topless and passed out.
Despite its collection of embarrassing and/or awkward situations, the film is surprisingly short on both laughs and heart – the latter showing up briefly during Levy’s scenes as Jim’s dad. Levy rises above the lackluster script with exquisite comic timing, and an ability to convey a range of unwritten emotions.
Meanwhile, much of the film focuses on Jim’s dull marital troubles, and complications arising from his failure to confide in his long suffering wife. When we met them as youths, the inability of Jim and friends to communicate with females was humorous, but finding them to still be the dumbest guys in the room 10 years later holds little amusement value.