American Pie Presents: Girls’ Rules, 2020.
Directed by Mike Elliott.
Starring Madison Pettis, Piper Curda, Darren Barnet, Lizze Broadway, Sara Rue, Jeannie Elise Mai, Lily Bleu Andrew, Stephanie Wong, Natasha Behnam, Lucas Adams, Barry Bostwick, Lisa Linke, Rasheda Crockett, Zayne Emory, Camaron Engels, Zachary Gordon, Clint Howard, Dylan Lawson, Robert Peters, Ed Quinn, Danny Trejo, Christian Valderrama, and Blayne Weaver.
It’s Senior year at East Great Falls. Annie, Kayla, Michelle, and Stephanie decide to harness their girl power and band together to get what they want their last year of high school.
The thought of stepping back into some straight-to-DVD American Pie releases (complete title American Pie Presents: Girls’ Rules) is mildly enticing, especially seeing this installment flips the script and center on girls looking to quench their lustful cravings but with a feminist slant (at least as much as you can get from an American Pie movie written and directed by men starring girls). Throw in the prospect of a new Stifler relative, and there is some legit curiosity for fans of the mainline series.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t even 10 minutes into the movie when I had felt like I made a large mistake. Nostalgia is a given when it comes to squeezing more out of this franchise like squeezing blood from a stone, but these filmmakers (directed by Mike Elliott and written by American Pie 2 story creator David H. Steinberg and co-writer Blayne Weaver) launch right into trying to top and update the now-infamous pie-fucking scene from the original. Annie (Disney staple Madison Pettis perhaps most known for starring alongside Dwayne Johnson in The Game Plan) is feeling bold enough to fuck her boyfriend before he heads off the next day starting college three hours away; she’s climbing over the fence, and scaling the building with many embarrassments along the way. Covered in dirt, she starts to become sexual with him (her boyfriend is somewhere between grossed out and excitedly turned on) as his parents barge in with a homemade pie and grandparents on Facetime.
None of this would be funny even if the original American Pie hadn’t existed, because the original version of the scene, as raunchy as it still is today, came from a place of characterization and understanding these horny teenagers. It was a combination of shock value and charm. There’s a build-up to the moment, as there are to most of the enduringly crude moments in the original movies. This is a group of people that got together deciding to make another American Pie movie while cashing in on any nostalgic idea they could think of, and who probably recently saw Booksmart deciding to use it as homework to poorly copy. It’s not even the only sexual sequence involving pies. And the actual movie is terrible, so I’m assuming even the usual cameo staples just simply didn’t want to be a part of this.
The story itself is also bad, falling into regressive clichés and formulaic storytelling, and at times, amateurish structure and editing. Annie and her best friends which are comprised of Piper Curda’s Kayla (the most sexually active and “extra” of the bunch, ready to make a scene at any moment and loses her boyfriend early on for doing so), Natasha Behnam’s Michelle (the politically conscious one of the bunch, also having a major crush on John F. Kennedy alongside one or two of Ruth Bader Ginsburg jokes that are slightly amusing), and Lizze Broadway’s Stephanie Stifler (as brash and opinionated as the OG, but with a likable feminist bite that sees her blackmailing the sexual predator high school principal in her introduction) are a tight bunch both living in the moment and thinking about the future.
Together, these girls have a discussion about what their lives are missing romantically and set a goal to make their desires reality by the upcoming morp, a backward prom that sees girls asking out boys. Aside from the cringe sexual humor that absolutely fails to understand why something like Booksmart was brilliant, the narrative takes a nosedive and shows its all-male writing team by having the girls compete with going after the same new, kind, and attractive student Grant (Darren Barnet). Of course, they are actually surrounded by boys that better complement their personalities and what they are looking for, so it’s no surprise where the movie actually goes. Annie’s now long-distance relationship also proves to be complicated.
What can be said is that, albeit far too late, Girls’ Rules eventually settles down and sees the girls working together towards what they want individually, admittedly coming to an overblown climax that at least has a bit of humanity. It’s as if these filmmakers had good intentions but had no idea how to execute any of it, therefore failing all of these female characters. Although, there is a climactic sex montage that is simultaneously raunchy and wholesome, so there are some small victories. American Pie is long past its shelf life, and I’m not entirely sure this movie would have ever been good, but it probably would have been more genuine and affecting if girls also ruled the majority of the production. But would I step into straight-to-DVD American Pie again? Yes, there’s more that could be done with these girls provided they got a female writer, a fresher idea, and perhaps a Stifler reunion to give it some connective tissue. I’m all for turning this franchise upside down, but this movie is bad.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com