Tomorrow Jim, Michelle, Oz, Kevin, Vicky, Heather and Stifler are, fairly randomly, reunited in American Reunion 13 years after their original big screen outing. Back in 1999 when the first American Pie was released however, another now-forgotten teen flick also came to cinemas – the odds of Justin, Jake, Chas and Hoover being scheduled in for a reunion though are decidedly slim.
Virtual Sexuality. Yes, it sounds like a film that can only be found on Channel 5 in the Friday night, post-watershed slot but is actually a smart, quirky and yet much-maligned high school comedy (based on a novel by Chloe Rayban) that on many levels betters its predecessor: Weird Science (1985). When lonely heart Justine (a midriff-touting Laura Fraser) visits a computer fair with nerd-pal Chas (Luke de Lacey) she stumbles across the Narcissus virtual reality makeover machine. Soon bored with changing her own proportions she decides to create the perfect man but in the course of things, during a freak power surge, he actually comes to life and she is seemingly trapped in his body.
Although much of this film’s charm comes from its quaint nineties-ness there’s a great deal more here than a stodgy dollop of nostalgia. The plot has some refreshingly unexpected reveals, the script boasts some deliciously callous lines (“I felt sick, like I’d eaten a dodgy pork pie” man-eater “Hoover” reflects after a dissatisfying sexual experience with the school’s wannabe stud) and director Nick Hurran does an impeccable job of getting inside the mind of a sweet, but decidedly desperate, pubescent girl. Although all of the cast are commendable in their efforts to make a wacko concept seem relatively believable, it is Rupert Penry Jones as Justine’s male alter ego ‘Jake’ who perfectly milks his more foppish on-screen moments; portraying a woman trapped in a man’s body is a pretty tall order but he never once lets his feminine energies dip.
So, if this film is actually a goodie, why has it been forgotten? Well it’s British and didn’t have an A-list American star in the cast list. Not necessarily that much of a disadvantage these days but in the 90s (Four Weddings, Memphis Belle, Martha Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence, hello?) it wasn’t necessarily a prudent move. Also, I can’t think that the previously alluded to dubious title could have helped. Its core audience – i.e. teens – would have had a pretty difficult time convincing their parents that this film didn’t involve some peverse under-age sex angle when it came out at the cinema. And persuading them to buy them the VHS for Christmas? Forget it. American Pie, however could easily be a kitchen-based culinary comedy as far as any vaguely ignorant parent was concerned.
Whether you rent this film out of morbid curiosity or out of vengeance on over-protective parents I can whole-heartedly guarantee a good time. After all, pre-teen sidekicks dressed as Tina Turner whilst cavorting to the irresistible beat of Private Dancer are always entertaining, right?