American Reunion is betting heavily on the nostalgia factor in the hopes of having comedy defeat The Hunger Games at the box office this weekend. Whether or not moviegoers decide to come out in droves check in on the grown-up shenanigans of Jim, Stifler, Michelle and the rest of the American Pie gang, it’s still likely to elicit memories of a simpler time. That time, of course, being 1999.
It’s easy to forget what a big deal American Pie was when it was released. Hailed as the sex comedy for its generation, the cast was touted as the ’90s Brat Pack and the infamous pie scene became something you had to see to believe. (The movie was also single-handedly responsible for getting the phrase “MILF” into the national lexicon, so thanks a lot for that, Adam Herz.)
But the one thing I realized I had truly forgotten about in the midst of this week’s American Reunion-sponsored nostalgia trip is that I was 13-years-old when I saw American Pie in theaters with my group of friends. Now, I know we could get into a whole argument about how kids today have seen and done far worse things by the age of 13, but there’s no way I should have seen that movie when I did. To my parents’ credit, they didn’t know I was going to see it and likely would have discouraged it. To my local theater’s credit, my friends and I snuck into that American Pie showing with total ease. Ah, youth.
I’m certain it was around the moment when Stifler imbibed a beer that had an extra, er, ingredient in it that I realized I was watching a movie that was wildly inappropriate for my age, but I was seeing the most popular movie in my school/the country. There was no way guilt or possibly the end of my childhood was jeopardizing that bragging right.
I asked some of my Hollywood.com colleagues to share their movie-watching memories of the first R-rated movie they were far to young to see when they did. Here’s what they told me:
Lisa Constantini: I remember watching The Shining when I was maybe 15. My sister and I went to a friends house after swim practice and somehow we ended up watching that movie. I had nightmares about it for weeks. I’m pretty sure we never told my parents about having watched it.
Matt Patches: I was a sheltered child growing up. R-rated movies were out of the question — what if I saw something inappropriate or picked up bad language? But thanks to a neighbor who was allowed to watch whatever the heck he wanted, I got an earlier-than-I-would-have-preferred viewing of The Exorcist. The kid’s mom hated supernatural movies — she was very in tune with crystals, meditation and the spiritual world — and banned the movie from her house. Which meant of course her son rented it. Of course we watched it. Of course we were forever scared by the insanity of demon possession. I didn’t run away in terror because I wanted to be this guy’s friend…but I was a different, utterly terrified child, after that screening.
Shaunna Murphy: In fifth grade we watched The Craft at a sleepover birthday party. I didn’t tell my parents because they wouldn’t have let me go (Oh the ’90s!), but my friend Kim did, and they made her swear that she’d keep her back to the TV. And she did!
Michael Arbeiter: When I was about four (I remember this vividly), my parents left me with an ethically-loose babysitter. She took it upon herself to show me The Silence of the Lambs, forcing me to watch the whole way through. I attribute a good handful of my adulthood traumas to this experience. To this day, I can’t watch Jodie Foster without crying a little.
Kelly Schremph: I was 10-years-old when I snuck over to my neighbors house to watch Scream. I knew my parents wouldn’t want me to watch it, but I figured I was tough enough to handle a stupid killer with a mask on his face. Boy was I wrong! That opening scene with Drew Barrymore scared me so bad I couldn’t sleep at all that night (my parents still think it was because I saw a spider in my room — shhh, don’t tell them). In fact, that scene might explain why I hate answering the phone. Thanks a lot, Wes Craven!
Kelsea Stahler: The benefit of having a young, cool aunt and uncle in Alaska (and thus miles and miles from parental reach) when you’re 13 is that they’ll let you watch pretty much whatever you want, and my Alaskan relative treated me to a little double feature that I’ve kept from my parents to this day: Dogma and American Pie. How I got through the awkwardness of sexual situations my under-developed tween mind couldn’t grasp and the traumatizing presence of Stifler’s mom and still had the resolve to make it through Kevin Smith’s bloody religious parody and its images of genderless Angel groins is still a mystery. But hey, I was 13 and I was watching forbidden cinematic fruit. Waste not, right?
Now it’s your turn to share: What was the first R-rated movie you were far too young to see when you did? Were you forever traumatized by the experience or did you welcome cinematic adulthood? Are you seeing American Reunion this weekend?