American Pie: Reunion, Jon Hurqitz & Hayden Schlossberg, 112 mins (15)
Safe, Boaz Yakin, 95 mins (15)
Monsieur Lazhar, Philippe Falardeau, 94 mins

You can reheat a pie as often as you want, but it will never taste the way it did

It may be notorious for the moment its hormonal teenage hero vented his frustrations on a pastry, but American Pie also had a heart, a sheaf of tightly scripted storylines, and more exquisitely timed comic set-pieces than the combined works of Judd Apatow and the Farrelly brothers. Better still, it had a sense of purpose. The four protagonists all pledged to lose their virginities by the time they left school – and movie plots don't get more urgent than that.

It's this men-on-a-mission momentum that's missing from the film's third sequel, American Pie: Reunion, which reassembles the cast after a nine-year break. Seeing them all as thirtysomethings is still intriguing, though. Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan are now a married couple with a toddler instead of a sex life. Seann William Scott's Stifler is the same sociopathic party animal he always was. Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Mena Suvari, and all the others you can barely remember have their own minor issues, too. But having re-introduced the characters, the film doesn't do anything with them except gather them for a school reunion. And even that premise is fumbled: it's the 13th anniversary of their graduation, not the 10th.

The first of the films not to be written by the series' creator, Adam Herz, this fourth slice of American Pie is nonetheless filled to the crust with affection for his characters – an affection it assumes that its audience will share. It relies on our being so happy to hang out with the gang again, listening to them talk about how old they feel, that we won't mind the script being only mildly funny. Like most class reunions, this one is better in anticipation than in the event.

Jason Statham has never made any claim to versatility, but when it comes to kicking his way through a roomful of bad guys while growling one-liners and keeping a straight face, Statham does it better than anyone since Arnie, Bruce and Sly. He's also an idol to follically challenged men everywhere. (Not that that's relevant to me.) It's just a pity that his films are rarely worthy of his presence in them, as you'll know if you've suffered through the Transporter trilogy, Death Race, Killer Elite or The Mechanic. Thank goodness, then, for Safe, a hard-boiled New York crime thriller which is just as efficient, unpretentious, and wryly aware of its own silliness as Statham himself.

Far more sophisticated in its storytelling than any of the Transporter films, Safe starts by nipping around the globe, and back and forth in time, until we're up to speed on its characters. It may not make much sense, but the plot is packed with enough twists and revelations to keep things moving until the next well-staged shoot-out or fight scene. We meet a young maths genius (Catherine Chan) who is used as a human databank by unsavoury criminals. When she memorises a vital safe combination, she becomes a target for Russian mobsters, Chinese mobsters and corrupt policemen, who seem to be competing to see who can kill the most innocent New Yorkers. Luckily for her, Statham may not be the washed-up cage fighter he first appears to be. He may, in fact, be ... a Jason Statham character. Let battle commence.

In the arresting opening sequence of Monsieur Lazhar, a boy glimpses the hanging body of his schoolteacher through a chink in the classroom door, a scene typical of the grace and subtlety with which Philippe Falardeau's French-Canadian drama handles weighty matters. After the suicide, a new teacher arrives: a gentlemanly Algerian refugee (Mohamed Fellag) with a tragedy of his own to come to terms with. He's a descendant of many inspirational teachers in film, but unlike Robin Williams, Julia Roberts and the rest, he's more interested in doing a decent job than in changing lives. The film as a whole is just as modest, dealing intelligently with such hot topics as immigration, education, bereavement and corporal punishment, but remaining charming and amusing all the way to the home bell. Oscar-nominated in this year's Best Foreign Language category, it's one of few movies to be set in a school that don't keep trying to teach us something.

Critic's choice

Greta Gerwig leads the fragrant, Firbank-quoting maidens in Damsels in Distress, a witty, eccentric comeback from long-lost Metropolitan and Barcelona director Whit Stillman. The French screen's tough guy par excellence was Jean Gabin. A retrospective at BFI Souththbank features Marcel Carné's 1938 classic Le Quai des Brumes, with the mesmerisingly bereted Michèle Morgan.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all