American Reunion (Universal Pictures, R)

film american-reunion 75This time the jokes are less funny, the writing is lazier, and in general, everything is noticeably less inspired.

 

film american-reunion 500

A few weeks ago, I rewatched the original 1999 film American Pie for the first time in years. It held up surprisingly well: It’s easy to have a lot of goodwill toward the characters and the movie on the whole, as it’s as stupid and easily funny as one expects a mainstream high school sex comedy to be, but is actually surprisingly sweet and doesn’t really make fun of any of its characters overmuch. This goodwill extended to the film’s two direct theatrical sequels, 2001’a American Pie 2 and 2003’s American Wedding; both of those are far lesser films than the original and in their own way kind of bad, but they’re easy enough to get on board with since the original drew such likeable characters. But what about now, 13 years after the original, with American Reunion? I had been looking forward to this movie’s arrival for months now, but will my vague nostalgia for the original film be found in other people who have become more of a grown-up in the intervening decade than me? Did anyone consider the fact that this type of film’s target audience is too young to have seen or cared about the original?

Regardless what you’re expecting of the film, you’re probably going to get it. It’s watchable enough to placate people like me who fondly remember American Pie, while still being bad enough to justify anyone who wants to say it sucks in doing so. Objectively, this film is to the original much like how The Hangover, Part II is to The Hangover—the rhythm, plot progression, conflict(s), etc., are all carbon copies of the first film. Where Pie’s climactic scene was at prom, this one is at the titular reunion. The first film had the gang—Jim (Jason Biggs), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Oz (Chris Klein), and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas)—shooting to lose their virginity on prom night, and here the guys are just hoping to get laid in some capacity, though with various people and under various motivations. They’re thwarted/enabled by Stifler (Seann William Scott, who was apparently born to play this role) and his parties; Jim has a near-miss with an inordinately-attractive naked high schooler halfway through the film’s runtime; Jim’s dad (Eugene Levy) doles out awkward advice, etc. But of course, this time the jokes are less funny, the writing is lazier, and in general, everybody—and everything—is noticeably less inspired.

As you might have noticed from the above paragraph, the whole original cast came back for American Reunion, which is an upgrade from American Wedding’s Jim/Stifler/Finch setup. Reunion actually has pretty literally everyone, and not just the main group of boys—Mena Suvari’s Heather, Alyson Hannigan’s Michelle, and Tara Reid’s Vicki all have fairly prominent roles, and people like Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth), Jessica (Natasha Lyonne), MILF Guy #2 (John Cho), and the Sherminator (Chris Owen) pop up for at least a scene or two.  And of course even more characters have to be added on top of that for some kind of continuity logic (we can’t be expected to believe these characters have just been pining for one another all this time, can we?—they all have disposable husbands/wives/boyfriends/kids/dogs), with the most notable ones being Heather’s new boyfriend Dr. Ron (Jay Harrington), Oz’s model girlfriend Mia (30 Rock’s Katrina Bowden), and Jim’s all-grown-up ex-babysittee Kara (Ali Cobrin).

What has probably occurred to you by now is that this whole thing doesn’t make a ton of sense, or at least not now, in 2012. These guys are supposedly from the class of ’99, so why would they have a reunion in 2012? This and many more distracting questions are given tossed-off answers in the script; it makes mention that the school missed the 10-year anniversary but is doing a 13-year one instead (has that happened with any graduating class ever?); Oz apologizes for having missed Jim and Michelle’s wedding. You get the point.

Stretches of logic such as these, Tara Reid’s remarkably poor acting, Stifler’s horndog act reading much closer to outright sexual harassment and chauvinism as he ages, and too-neat ending aside, American Reunion is overall an enjoyable enough affair. The bottom line is that if you’re a fan of the previous American Pie movies, you’ll probably not outright regret going to see this one. But if you didn’t like the previous ones or have never seen them, you’d be better off just skipping it. | Pete Timmermann

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