American Pie (1999) was a perfect storm of filmmaking. It was released at a time when raunchy sex-comedies were scarce, it dealt frankly with the subject of adolescent lust and it was a heist film. Oh, and it had a great marketing campaign that capitalized on the central gag of the film, which created intrigue and anticipation. For all of you fuzzy on the details, the plot goes like this: four guys plan to lose their virginity by prom night. It’s a coming-of-age story with near-misses, pre-mature ejaculation, and intimate physical contact with baked goods.*
In short: it was a huge hit.
What followed was a string of sequels and spin-offs with stakes-raising shenanigans that failed to re-capture the rush we felt our first time, when everything was so new and exciting.** It gave then unknown actors Jason Biggs, Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, and that other guy a shot at the big time (strangely enough it would be Alyson Hannigan and Seann William Scott who would endure in the hearts and minds of the public). It also created an opportunity for the directors to tackle bigger projects (ie. The Golden Compass), and for writer Adam Herz to continue writing sequels and collecting royalty cheques.
For a short time Biggs, Suvari, Reid and the other guy road their own coat-tails (Loser, Say It Isn’t So, Road Trip) while inspiring others to do the same. One of these project was Slackers, which unlike its counterparts, fails to live up to its generic title. Incidentally, the first requirement for a successful film.
Slackers aped everything that made American Pie a hit: it had raunchy, envelope-pushing jokes, a dorky lead character, and it too was a heist film. The plot involved a group of university students employing Entrapment-level planning and execution to steal test scores. If your characters can pull off an elaborate heist in broad daylight, they are technically not slackers. They are master criminals – with boners in this case.
The filmmakers tried desperately to appeal to their target demographic by capitalizing on Devon Sawa’s creepy baby-face good looks. It also siphoned gags and tropes from other popular coming-of-age tales: they exploited Laura Pepron’s That 70s Show success and Jason Schwartzman’s Rushmore persona, while borrowing similiar hair-styles: the film’s quirky side-kick wears Hyde’s once-iconic chops.
Like its predecessors, many of which featured some of the American Pie crew, Slackers failed to capture an audience. Somehow repeating the same formula didn’t seem fresh and exciting any more. Not to mention it’s gross mis-titling and poor marketing campaign, which relied too heavily on promoting the cookie-cutter plot.
Also,there was too much of this:
It was not a complete loss however, as one unconnected gag has Schwartzman giving a well-endowed milf a tongue bath, which is totally worth the paltry three-dollar DVD rental – if that’s what you’re into.
Pie isn’t so great. It’s only marginally better than what followed in its footsteps. There are far raunchier fare out there with more compelling characters and dick jokes. Porky’s, for example. Watching American Pie more than a decade on is a little like growing up on Star Wars only to discover Lucas borrowed the plot from Kurosawa’s Forbidden Fortress your first year at university. Now all you have left is nostalgia.
Millennium Falcon is still badass though. And dick jokes. Those never go out of style.
*Common-sense warning: don’t stick your dick in hot apple pie
**2012 promises yet another follow-up.