Admit it: As much as you want to hate on the once-huge franchise’s seemingly gratuitous fourth installment, there’s something about American Reunion (in theaters today) that’s making it difficult to complain. In fact, you’ve already made plans to see it this weekend, preferably with the same group of friends you laughed your ass off with back in 1999, when the raunchy teen comedy classic American Pie debuted to box office glory.
Well, you’re in luck: American Reunion is, thankfully for us nostalgic heads, very funny. Written and directed by Pie first-timers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the vibrant sequel brings the whole now-30-year-old gang—namely Jim (Jason Biggs), Stifler (Sean William Scott), Oz (Chris Klein), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas)—back together for their 13-year high school reunion. Some of them have wives, one (Jim) has a kid, another (Oz) is a shamed reality TV star, and others (Stifler and Finch) aren’t exactly where they’d like to be in their lives, and their trip through memory lane brings with it R-rated hijinx (i.e., naked, drunk, and horny teenage girls), old faces, new love interests, and the same comedic spirit that made American Pie work so well.
For Hurwitz and Schlossberg, previously known as the screenwriters behind all three Harold And Kumar movies, the chance to explore the current lives of the American Pie characters represented the “ultimate fan fiction experience.” Complex recently chatted with the filmmakers about the challenges of stretching the American Pie appeal to audiences of all ages, why Stifler has become a leading man, and their search for American Reunion’s topless eye candy (mission greatly accomplished, we should add).
Review by Matt Barone (@MBarone)
Watching American Reunion, I had this rather bizarre and profound sense of nostalgia for my high school years, probably because I saw American Pie during my senior year. That seems like a reaction many others will have, too—is that one of the things that attracted you to the project?
Hayden Schlossberg: Yeah, definitely. When we were approached about writing and directing this movie, we were in our early 30s, so one of the main reasons we jumped on-board was because we thought this could be a movie where we can draw from our personal experiences. When you hit your early 30s, you’re at that age when you start wondering what happened to certain people in your high school, and where you’re at in life versus where you thought you’d be in life.
So, beyond it being a successful franchise and a movie that we really liked, it was an opportunity for us to draw on our own experiences and the experiences of our friends. I think that’s really what made the original American Pie so successful—it was an ensemble that had different characters going through different types of teen experiences with sex, whether it was just the horny teenager, or the girls who were nervous about their first time. We wanted to capture that with an ensemble of characters in their 30s. it’s thinking about, what are those experiences that a lot of people can relate to?
When you’re in your 30s, people are married, people have kids, and some people aren’t married yet—they’re single, and they’re thinking about lost loves. People deal with different work situations, too.
Was there a challenge in making American Reunion work on that level while not alienating viewers who are younger than 30 and haven’t reached all of those places and conflicts yet?
Jon Hurwitz: You know, we weren’t too worried about that. We felt that, even though the characters are in their 30s, the situations that they’re getting into and the brand of comedy would work really well with audiences of all ages. You look at a movie like The Hangover, where the characters are all in their 40s, or Bridesmaids, with characters who are in their late 30s—those movies connect with people of all ages.
Just because you’re a teenager, that doesn’t mean you can only relate to movies starring teenagers. You like movies that have just the right sensibility for you, and we felt confident that we could bring the laughs that kids today can enjoy, but also ones that parents today can enjoy.
That’s why expanded upon the storylines of Jim’s dad (played by Eugene Levy) and Stifler’s mom (Jennifer Coolidge), and the relationship between Jim and his father. When writing and directing the movie, it was important for us to explore all of the characters in ways that would bring laughs to as many people as possible.
With so many characters coming back for this one, and working with that mission of exploring all of them, was the first draft of your script 300-or-so pages long?
Schlossberg: [Laughs.] It’s funny, because, yeah, you have length issues when you’re dealing with such a huge ensemble. And then you meet the actors and you incorporate their thoughts. It definitely gets long, and Jon and I tried our best to give everybody a storyline; it wasn’t just, OK, let’s bring them all back just to have everyone back. In some of the sequels, they had characters who didn’t really have anything that was juicy or relatable going on in their lives.
We tried our best to give everybody something; obviously, there’s a lot of characters, so everybody can’t get the same amount of pie, so to speak. [Laughs.] We tried to find that rhythm, and then you watch it with an audience to see how they’re dealing with it, in terms of the pace. From our very first screening, we had no issues with the pace; according to our test screenings, everybody was laughing from beginning to end. They seemed to be happy that everybody was back.