For a generation of twentysomethings, 1999's American Pie was something of a generation-defining film. If your fin de siècle involved Blink-182 records, dial-up internet and cheap mobile phones, then the chances are you owned a battered VHS copy of American Pie.
If so, consider yourself the target market for American Reunion (released on 2 May) in which the cast – and many of the gags – of the original are brought back from American Purgatory to mark 13 years since the original cascade of knob gags, baked apple abuse and Third Eye Blind songs hit the big screen.
Avoiding the obvious question – who on earth has a 13-year school reunion? – the return of the American Pie characters for the first time since American Wedding in 2003 ought to be a singularly depressing experience.
For veteran-watchers of the four-film franchise, it's actually a quarter-decent cash-in brightened by the brilliant Eugene Levy and Seann William Scott as the douchebag's douchebag Steve Stifler. However, in Pie-world, not much has changed.
Socks are still masturbated into. Breasts are frequently revealed. Everyone is still quite good looking. But the reason the original American Pie appealed and endured – beyond the nudity – was that it captured a particularly optimistic time in its characters, its actors and its audiences lives.
All were in the middle of an economic and technological boom. Life offered university, romance and boundless possibilities. So how did that turn out?
The reunion is supposed to be a romantic notion. A chance to catch up with people we've not seen for years – and, thanks to the career choices of 90 per cent of the American Pie cast, that's actually the case here. Few of the film's stars have risen much since the first Pie. There were flickers from Scott, Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari (American Beauty was also out in 1999), but for the likes of Thomas Ian Nicholas and Celebrity Big Brother's Tara Reid, you can't imagine they needed much persuasion to get the old gang back together. Their careers – like the lives of their Pie characters – haven't been served by the optimism of the late Nineties and, as such their reunion, for the viewer at least, is a fairly depressing one.
But perhaps that's an accurate reflection of the school reunion experience.
Adolescent dreams of returning to the old school, tanned and rich (like Alan Cumming's Sandy in Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion) are quickly replaced by the realisation that for 99 per cent of us, school reunions serve only to prove that everyone is still just about the same. If a bit swollen.
There's another problem too with the school reunion – and this is referred to in a scene in American Reunion – it's shot. Thanks to social networks, the thrill of wondering what people from school are up to is long gone. Friends Reunited scratched that itch and then Facebook gave it a skin graft.
Which is a shame. Those, like me, who came of age at the end of the Nineties at least had a window of a couple of years to try to define ourselves away from the context of school before MySpace and Facebook pinned us down. But for those who graduated at any time after 2006, the chance of shaking off the shackles of an ill-advised fashion experiment or membership of terrible Oasis cover bands are never further away than someone writing a message reminding you of the fact online. Perhaps the only real surprises left in a reunion situation are in fiction.
Not only are there some great school reunion moments – Romy and Michelle, Grosse Point Blank, Liz Lemon's disastrous return to school in 30 Rock – there are the casts who've gotten back together after half a lifetime, too.
None are better than the glorious reformation of the Seinfeld cast in season seven of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Others – like the legacy-shredding This Life get together in This Life+10, well... not so much. American Reunion might be a bit of daft fun for millennials beginning to experiment with nostalgia. But, be warned, if we keep encouraging them, it won't be too long before they hit American Retirement.
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