The original American Pie trilogy was (very much like many trilogies) a fine working example of the law of diminishing returns. Characters were increasingly presented as much the same, only more so, scenarios were built up with the pay off (usually at the expense of Jim’s dignity) painfully obvious to see and the crude/vulgar quotient was steadily ramped up. Increasingly hard to find was the sweetness and good-naturedness of the first film, as gross-out became the new name of the game. In that respect, this new entry is both more of the same and a return to form. When it is being crass it is very crass, with utterly unnecessary levels of nudity and crudeness (post-cunnilingus Stifler with “moisture” and hair around his mouth is a particular low-light), but when it searches for and finds gentler, more sympathetic touches it succeeds in being moving. Jim’s mum has passed away and the conversations between Jim and his Dad, both about the need for him to move on with his life, but also regarding words of wisdom about Jim and Michelle’s stalling love life succeed in being both funny and tender in the way they were in the first film.
Another (admittedly minor) problem on show here is frankly how old everyone has grown. They were far from spring chickens for the first slice of pie, now they are presented as 31-ish and although the actors are mostly around that age, the guys in particular look more like 40. Putting that aside, Jim gets himself into more trouble, with one sequence involving S&M gear and a randy teenager who he used to babysit heading exactly where you think it will. Jim’s dad gets hammered at a party, leading to one of the film’s funnier lines, especially as delivered by Eugene Levy (“the name’s Noah, motherf***er!”), Stifler continues to be selfish, thoughtless, permanently horny and unpleasant and Oz is pining for Heather, despite them both having moved on to new partners who are, would you believe it, just unappealing enough for you to be rooting for Oz and Heather to get back together.
It is a film of few surprises, but it keeps moving along at a good pace. There is a bit of hoop-jumping in the script to try to squeeze everyone back in (including Nadia, the Sherminator and the MILF guys) which results in a number of scenes falling flat. Conversely, a sequence where Jim tries to cover his dignity using a see-through pan lid proves that Jason Biggs continues to be game in a way few other actors are required to be and even if the rendez-vous between Stifler’s Mum and Jim’s Dad (and indeed Stifler and Finch’s Mum) are contrived, they raise a smile and prove to be enjoyable plot elements. Inevitably profane and at times childish, this won’t suit anyone who disliked the originals, but for fans there is plenty to enjoy. Somewhat unfairly dismissed on its theatrical release, this is a reasonably good entry in the series and although not close to the first film, is probably a better film than either of the other two sequels. You can buy it on DVD or Blu-ray here from 10th September (or to rent from 9th November).
Extras: As with the recent BD re-release of the original trilogy, a veritable bounty. Deleted, extended and alternate scenes abound (though all are proven to have been rightly excised), alongside a plethora of featurettes and on-set videos. These cover the lakeside location, Jim’s Dad, the admittedly entertaining fight scene, Oz’s dancing and the continued humiliation poured on Jason Biggs as hapless Jim. There are also gag reels aplenty and a commentary. The commentary benefits greatly from the due having written and directed, as they provide welcome insight into how certain scenes and characters developed and mutated as production went forward and certain options became impracticable. There are plenty of nice observations and they seem like a thoughtful, considered duo.