American Reunion Directed by: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg Cast: Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Eugene Levy, Chris Klein, Tara Reid, Alyson Hannigan, Mena Suvari, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas Running Time: 1 hr 53 mins Rating: R Release Date: April 6, 2012
PLOT: The men and women of East Great Falls High '99 reunite on a weekend to reconcile their relationships and start new ones.
WHO'S IT FOR? If you've never seen an American Pie movie before, it's guaranteed that you will not laugh with this movie half as much as anyone who has faint memories of the certain side characters that have filled the franchise thus far. if you enjoyed the American Pie movies and feel like you haven't entirely lost your taste for juvenile behavior and drama since the original's 1999 release, then this might be worth your time. At the very least, you will know exactly what to expect.
EXPECTATIONS: Is this a reunion we really wanted? As I posited in my April movie preview, would this be the Toy Story 3 of sex comedies?
Jason Biggs as Jim Levenstein: Since American Pie, Hollywood has given us a numerous amount of what I like to lazily call "Woody Allen Surrogates," which includes the likes of Michael Cera, Jesse Eisenberg, and possibly even Jason Segel. And yet though Biggs has been off the mainstream radar, his return as Jim is entirely welcome, and nearly just as funny as it was the first time he made whoopee to a pie. He has the same bumbling actions and clumsy luck that we have known him for, but Jason Biggs is just so good at playing uncomfortable that he makes his character Jim, a very boring individual on the outside, a very amusing friend to love and to laugh at in the American Pie universe. Score: 6
Seann William Scott as Steven Stifler: There's a certain thrill in witnessing Scott's character Stifler, regardless of how long it has been since we last saw him. Stifler is a great molding of the obnoxious a**hole who lives in his own bubble, and tries to constantly taunt people behind this shield. Outside of his crummy job, his dramatic problems (not getting any at his own party) are hilarious, and are a colorful testament to what this former jerk jock still wants even after high school. Score: 7
Eugene Levy as Jim's Dad: The best chemistry in this film can be found between Jim and his dad, especially with the new earnest level that Levy's character has been knocked back towards (after his wife has passed). The two have a couple of sweet scenes in which Jim's dad tries to get out into the dating world (on JDate, of all places). Levy plays this re-occurring character with the same sweetness, the kind of honest parental figure that can keep up pretty well with the shenanigans of those younger and less experienced than himself. Score: 6
Rest of Cast: Compared to the on-screen charisma of Biggs, Scott, and Levy, everyone else appears in American Reunion like they've been given extensive and really awkward cameos. Chris Klein proves more how uncomfortable he is as an actor, with his original "sweetness" in the first two films now making him sound like a cheesy dunce. Possibly in an attempt to cover up his (perfectly fine) babyface, Thomas Ian Nicholas sports a look of a Columbian drug lord. Other actors, like Mena Suvari and Tara Reid are thrown back into our faces, and it's just awkward. The movie wants us to like them, especially for what they once symbolized to these young boys ... but we simply don't. Especially with Reid, you'll giggle anytime she is on screen, and showing off her empty presence. Alyson Hannigan appears in the movie briefly to make Jim feel guilty about a situation he really can't control, but in her few scenes she reminds us she's done more than all her female co-stars combined. Score: 3
TALKING: Just as with its visuals, the dialogue is full of phrases and lines that are plugged into the script in order to take people's brains back to the original movie while still physically being in the theater for this one. Jim's episode of bakery coitus is mentioned numerous times, and Alyson Hannigan even says, "There was this one time, at band camp ...". Score: 6
SIGHTS: Outside of a Todd Solondz movie, middle of America may never look as bright and sunny as it does in an American Pie film. The most surprising visuals that American Reunion has to offer are the re-appearances of certain side characters from the franchise, who indeed offer reunion-like feelings within audience members. It isn't so much that you'll think, "Oh, it's so nice to see so-and-so again!" but more like, "Oh jeez, they really let themselves go, didn't they?" Score: 5
SOUNDS: The American Reunion soundtrack is a mix of modern songs and "classic rock," as it is jokingly called in the movie ("Humbug," I said to myself while shaking my cane). The likes of LMFAO are mixed in with tunes like "The Freshmen" by Verve Pipe, or "Closing Time" by Semisonic is heard soon in relation to a song by Bruno Mars. The soundtrack prefers to use one hit wonders from the 90s more than modern times, presuming that Mars and LMFAO make it out alive of the musical dung holes they have dug for themselves. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: My biggest laugh came from the reveal that Stifler's two high school mates were actually gay. Take that, homophobic bros!
ENDING: Characters start new chapters of romance, or learn to appreciate their current ones. The boys have a discussion about "doing this every year" (which would only be possible if American Pie took a hilarious turn for the mumblecore, or Woody Allen started writing and directing these movies). Someone literally says "until next time."
QUESTIONS: What's the largest reason behind this particular sequel? To sell DVDs? To keep high school movie burn-outs like Tara Reid and Chris Klein off the streets?
REWATCHABILITY: Possibly, but what does an American Pie movie rewatch require anyway? Don't all of these movies require that they be watched in a room with at least one beer in hand, and with a group of people? There are enough jokes here to fill in the time that an inevitable half-attentive second time would make for. This movie doesn't demand serious, fully-attentive revisits.
The gimmick of this fourth slice of the American Pie franchise is the recollection of memories. Characters are constantly talking about the past, and how great the old high school days were. The movie has the same dialogue with the audience, reminding us like a visual yearbook of all the things that made up our not so educational experience at American Pie High. The movie is so fixated making audiences think about the old days, a snapshot (we call them "production stills") collage during the credits features photos from the movie you're still watching. The film is so focused on playing into the emotions of memory that it even wants audiences to think, "Oh, my current experience with American Reunion feels like a lifetime ago. And golly, do I miss the 90s!"
For an American Pie movie (one that was actually released in theaters), this film knows what its audience wants and it gives them a satisfying portion. There are a few scenes of raunchy boyish shenanigans, and they become funnier and funnier the clumsier the situation gets (especially with Biggs and Scott in the lead). An episode with Biggs and the frisky newly legal girl next door fulfills the most primal requirements for any American Pie experience - boobs, and douchebaggery.
Though the characters may be at least ten years older from the last time we saw them, (with jobs 'n kids 'n their own homes 'n stuff) their drama is extremely groan worthy, and often delivered with the same excess of cheesiness of any high school nonsense. It's high school drama played out by adults, with a completely straight face from a silly comedy which has the line "I j****d like a racehorse." Whereas in the early movies such naiveté could be reasoned with how these young men and women are trying to traverse the territories of meaningful relationships, there is no such growth visible with the "drama" that goofs up already forgettable characters in this fourth serving of the American Pie tale.
Since it recalls so much of the original three movies, American Reunion shows who has grown past the series and done something with their lucky position as an actor, who has labored to make memorable characters in a sex comedy, and who has not. Who is doing something, and who is, like the worst of the people you meet at a high school reunion, stuck in their memories of the four years that are usually just the beginning for growth into a much more interesting human being. In this case, barely actors like Klein and Reid are the high school movie burn outs who embarrass themselves by still having their head in the "glory days."
American Reunion offers a strange meta reiteration of an underlying thought from last year's underrated anti-homecoming gem Young Adult. There are just some people from high school that you'd be happy to never see again.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10