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August 21, 2013

The Couch Potato: I should say bye, bye ‘American Pie’ — but I just can’t

NEW CASTLE — Way back in the summer of 1999, the Couch Potato was getting ready for his senior year of high school, bumming around with friends and endlessly searching for some form of entertainment. 

Luckily for us back then, one of our good friends worked at the old local movie theater and he routinely snuck us through the gates for free movies. For me and my friends, nothing was better than FREE, and a FREE MOVIE was even better.

By the end of the summer, I was there so often that many of the other workers knew me by name and didn’t even bother asking me to pay. One night, they gave me a bow tie and vest and let me tear tickets with my plain clothes underneath. I even got to change the movies on the marquee.

My friend who worked at the theater asked me why I didn’t just get a job there since I was now just hanging around on most nights. It was a reasonable question but I preferred the freedom of leaving anytime I liked. I wasn’t real big on real responsibility.

So anyway, one of those summer nights of 1999 saw the release of a now classic movie, “American Pie.” Being that we were 17 years old at the time, no movie of that summer would speak to us more than a group of guys hanging out and trying to find a girl. I ended up seeing the movie in the theater three times and then renting it, on VHS of course, to watch it again when it came out later in the year.

The themes of “American Pie” were raunchy, sure, but universal nonetheless. The angst of the teenage years was captured in a way that was real and funny, and I obviously really enjoyed the movie as we watched a group of guys who seemed a lot like us.

Two years later, “American Pie 2” was released and, thankfully, my friend had kept that job at the theater as a summer gig. We once again got in free and not surprisingly, we were equally entertained as we were with the first film. The second film captured the feeling of returning home from the first year of college and being back with your family and hometown buddies. Once again, it spoke to me and my friends in a direct way as it paralleled our own lives at the time. 

In 2003, and a little too quickly to coincide with my life, “American Wedding” was released. While not quite as good as the first two movies, and missing a good many of the original stars, it still was nice to see some of the gang back together. Unfortunately, I had to pay see “American Wedding” as my friend no longer worked at the theater.

Which all brings me to this past weekend. We once again got a free movie channel preview on Directv and as I flipped through the options, I stumbled across “American Reunion,” which is the fourth installment in the series. I had already seen the movie last year and found it to once again be very relatable to my own life and that of my friends.

Even though I had already seen the movie, I set down the remote and just kept watching. I had been planning to watch something new, but for some reason, I just couldn’t change the channel. Once again, this reunited cast had captivated my attention. As I watched, I kind of wished that my old buddies were sitting there with me to laugh and reminisce.  

At the end of the movie, pictures of all of the cast members from the original production in 1999 are shown during the credits, and it struck me how much all of us have changed in 14 years. The baby-faced actors on screen were all grown up, as are me and all of my friends. 

It’s not some big revelation that people get older and things change. However, it has been kind of neat to watch a movie franchise document those changes on the same timeline as my own life.

I’ll always appreciate the “American Pie” franchise for that and if I see any of the movies on TV again, I’ll probably have no choice but to watch —  again.

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