American Reunion review

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Review Ron Hogan 30 Mar 2012 - 06:50
American Reunion

Ron checks out American Pie: The Reunion, and finds the series in better shape than you might think...

It's been a long time since Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) first got to know one another in American Pie, and it's been even longer since they had sex, or so it seems. The fire is going out of their marriage, but Jim has a great plan for reviving things with his wife: attend their high school reunion. Never mind the fact that the class of 1999's reunion is about three years too late, these days you're lucky to have a class reunion at all!

So Jim and Michelle head back to Great Falls, Michigan, where Jim reunited with his old friends Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), and Oz (Chris Klein). The four make plans to hang out, but when their frenemy Stifler (Seann William Scott) crashes the party, things rapidly get out of hand. Massive amounts of alcohol are consumed, relationships are strained, and parties are thrown. Meanwhile, problems pop up and are solved in turn, when characters aren't getting involved in misadventures.

The main selling point of American Reunion, then, is that the entire cast of characters is back. From the main four boys to Stifler, the wife/girlfriend characters (Hannigan, Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, Natasha Lyonne, and even Jennifer Coolidge), and even ancillary characters like the MILF-chanter played by John Cho, and the Shermanator (Chris Owen), basically anyone you might possibly remember from American Pie movies are involved. This is the movie's main selling point, and no doubt it's why the movie actually got made. It's nice to see them again, even if you see a little too much of them at certain points.

If you're anything like me, you've grown up with these characters, or at least grown up aware of the characters. When American Pie came out, I was fresh out of high school as a member of the class of 1999, just like the movie characters. Inspired by a rental of American Pie 2, I went on an ill-advised spring break trip to Tampa, Florida, with no money and no real knowledge of how to party since I was still under 21. I drifted away for American Wedding, though I was aware of it, and then came back for this particular sequel. Like the other movies, this is a sex comedy with scatological undertones, and a willingness to go anywhere for a joke.

American Reunion is blatantly a nostalgia trip. After all, they're ostensibly together for a high school reunion, so it's not hard to compare the actors today to the actors in 1999. It's strange to see just how much they have all aged, some of them a lot better than others, and it does take a little getting used to. Still, it's the kind of risk you run when it comes to getting the band back together after so many years.

The movie is comfortable, though, and while the guys have all changed in some way via marriage, jobs, or whatever, they're still the characters we know from years ago. The actors slip back into their roles, probably because these are the roles they remain best known for.

The major change has taken place behind the scenes. Adam Herz, the writer of all three of the theatrical American Pie movies before this one, is out. Replacing him is the two-headed writing and directing team of Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, best known for the Harold & Kumar series of films. They bring that sensibility to this particular franchise, not that there are a ton of differences between the two. They have a good sense for comedy, and they have interesting filming angles, but there's no real point as such to the film. In the first American Pie, the central conflict was the boys' desire to lose their virginity. American Reunion seems a bit more rambling.

Sure, there are plenty of shenanigans and conflicts, but nothing seems to have high stakes anymore. Perhaps that says less about American Pie the franchise and more about life. By the time you're an adult, your big drives have all either been fulfilled or forgotten: marriages, careers, children, settling down, and all those various events help put little things into perspective. Still, American Reunion has heart, and lands some good laughs, though the mirth tapers off near the end when the emotional schmaltz takes over.

American Reunion won't break any new ground, and it's not even the best one of the series. However, when it works, it's pretty funny and Hurwitz and Schlossberg find ways to put our heroes into new situations, even if they default to the responses we know and love them for.

3 stars
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