by Steve Habrat
After the flabby and puerile humor that plagued 2003’s American Wedding, it was no surprise that the American Pie series was banished to straight-to-DVD territory. It was apparent that screenwriter Adam Herz had nothing left to do with his characters anymore. American Reunion, the newest installment in the series, is the film that should have been made after the tasty second installment instead of the warmed over American Wedding. Enter new directors and screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who enlist the entire original cast (yes, ALL of them are here) and bake up a hit-or-miss installment for the Facebook generation, one with full frontal nude shots, pubic hair stuck to lips, and a cooler full of feces. I knew these guys could run with the Wolf Pack, even if they are wheezing as they cross the finish line. While the film is a slight return to form for the series, there are still a handful of lulls in the film, which was slightly disappointing because when American Reunion is funny, it had me doubled over in laughter.
American Reunion wisely focuses back on hornball Jim (Played by Jason Biggs), who is now living a fairly normal suburban life with his geeky wife Michelle (Played by Alyson Hannigan). It turns out that Jim and Michelle have a two-year-old son Evan, who has ultimately caused a hiccup in Jim and Michelle’s sex life. Jim and Michelle return to their hometown of East Great Falls for their high school reunion, shacking up with Jim’s dad (Played by Eugene Levy) who is still grieving his wife who died three years earlier. Jim quickly heads out to meet up with his old group of friends, Kevin (Played by Thomas Ian Nicholas), Oz (Played by Chris Klein), Finch (Played by Eddie Kaye Thomas), and Stiffler (Played by Seann William Scott). As the group catches up, they quickly find themselves getting caught up in the same old awkward situations. They also have to confront their pasts with the return of Vicki (Played by Tara Reid), Heather (Played by Mena Suvari), and Nadia (Played by Shannon Elizabeth). Jim, however, finds himself juggling spending time with Michelle, getting out of humiliating situations, and attempting to help his grieving father get back out into the dating world.
American Reunion does little to set itself apart from the other American Pie installments, rehashing the same old antics that the boys are so fond of. The boys get drunk, talk about sex, and attempt to grow up a little bit here and there. Biggs appears to be more committed than ever as Jim, going so far to bear his privates for a shock laugh here and there. The rest of the cast has greatly improved, yes, even Chris Klein who punches in a watchable performance as Oz. I was shocked that Hurwitz and Schlossberg decided to hone in on Stiffler’s arrested development, once again forcing the party animal to attempt to grow up and stop living in the beer chugging past. Apparently, they never saw American Wedding, which attempted the same exact thing. They wisely place Stiffler in the background again, as they seemed to realize that a little bit of his character goes a long way. I was impressed with the emotional twist placed on Jim’s dad, who is at his patient and unassuming best. The early scenes where we catch glimpses of his wounded heart are signs that the franchise is starting to embrace a smidgeon of adulthood, but that all quickly goes out the window when Jim and Michelle drag him to a party being thrown by Stiffler.
The film places a good majority of its focus on Jim, Jim’s dad, Oz, Heather, and Stiffler, almost forgetting about the rest of the cast. Kevin and Finch have almost no reason to be in the movie other than to fill out the runtime with some minor conflicts that they run into. Vicki is there just to look pretty and create a forgettable scenario for Kevin. Nadia pops up for about three minutes, also to look pretty and have a chuckle worthy exchange with Jim, who is of course in an awkward situation. Natasha Lyonne makes an appearance as Jessica, who has a secret of her own to reveal, but then the film moves on and forgets she was even there. There are plenty more cameos from recognizable characters that, if you are a die-hard fan of the series, you will get a kick out of. The film works in a subplot that involves the eighteen-year-old Kara (Played by Ali Cobrin), the girl next door that Jim used to babysit and all the teenage boys lust after. She desperately wants to loose her virginity to the stammering Jim, providing a side plot that is intermittently funny.
American Reunion finds itself all dressed up in the latest fads and trends. There are jokes about Facebook, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, and smartphones, all which will make the older viewers giggle as the soundtrack blares nostalgic 90’s rock in the background. American Reunion also tackles the current hot topic of sexuality, revealing multiple characters to be gay throughout the runtime. The sexuality jokes are usually aimed at the obviously homophobic Stiffler, who fights with all his might not to be repulsed by the reveals, but don’t expect there to be any profound commentaries on the topic. American Reunion ends up feeling both unsullied and dated at the same time. It can still shock with the best of the shock comedies out there, but there was something vaguely old fashioned and, believe it or not, desperate about all of this. The script was horrifically uneven, some of the jokes bombing badly. For a film that is supposed to deal with the challenges of being adults while still holding on to your past, the film shows us surprisingly little growth in any of the characters, an aspect that I was immensely disappointed in. Something tells me that the American Pie gang will return in the near future, the film dropping a less than subtle hint about a sequel in the final frame (Seriously, what else do any of these actors or actresses have to do?). In the end, it’s still the same old comedy that you knew in high school but now with visible crows feet.