For 20 minutes at the end, it all works. The decision to bring back the original American Pie cast suddenly gels, the cavalcade of faces of teen movie history flashing before your eyes, and a joke that genuinely has fun with what the films were doing back in their heyday. It’s where Alyson Hannigan finally gets to let her hair down a bit, where Eugene Levy comes into his own… heck, that last 20 minutes was pretty much near the top of the wishlist for a belated American Pie sequel.
The problem, sadly, is the hour and 20 minutes that comes before it. Because for the sizeable majority of American Pie: Reunion‘s running time, it’s like nothing’s ever changed. The jokes are pretty much the same, it’s just that everyone’s nearing their 40s now. That proves to be a crucial problem for the film, too. The energy and innocence (of sorts) of youth has been exchanged for a bunch of people who don’t have naivety as an excuse any more, but still try to use it. But the film’s script doesn’t seem to realise it, and as such, it finds any excuse to go through the exact same motions.
This is showcased particularly by Tara Reid. It’s perhaps unfair to pick on one character in particular, but there proves to be a very good reason why her character, Vicky, never made it as far as American Wedding: she has nothing to add. Vicky, here, basically does what she does in the first film, and Reid herself phones in the exact same performance. There’s been no progression, and no desire to add any.
Others fare better. Chris Klein’s Oz, who was also dropped from American Wedding, seems to be the lucky one whose name was pulled out of the hat, and thus gets some hint of a decent story. Him, and Eugene Levy’s Mr Levenstein (Jim’s dad, to you and us). Levy is a comedy genius (Waiting For Guffman remains a masterpiece), and here, he gets a bit more space, has to wrestle with the fact that his wife has died, and he’s back on the market, so to speak. American Pie: Reunion doesn’t quite take as much advantage of this as it could, but the moments where Levy is given some decent screen time are well rewarded.
Sadly, though, much of the focus is elsewhere. Jason Biggs is as likeable as ever as Jim, but the ridiculous subplot that sees him falling into lots of ‘innocent’ situations with the young woman he used to babysit epitomises everything that’s wrong and lazy here. Why does he get into this scrapes? Why do we have to go through the unfunny contrivances, forced to the nth degree, just to put some issues between Jim and Michelle? The film starts with something more interesting, that Jim and Michelle have physically drifted apart a little, but instead of focusing on that, it’s an excuse for another young actress to show us her pants.
I’m not being prudish about it, but haven’t we moved on just a little from desperately unfunny scenarios such as these? American Pie: Reunion arrives in a year where we’ve already seen 21 Jump Street demonstrate that there’s fun and life in the R-rated comedy market. American Pie: Reunion, though, seems far more interested in showing you what it did in the past than offering any hope for the future.
Thank goodness, at least, for Seann William Scott. Much as he was required to do in American Wedding, he streamrollers through scenes with an energy and enthusiasm that’s infectious and entertaining. He’s the one who’s really trying to work the material here, and has as much success with it as anyone.
Actually, scrub that: leave it to the older hands, Eugene Levy and Jennifer Coolidge, too. By the time the credits roll for the final time, you can’t help but wish we’d had 90 minutes dedicated to them rather than the retread we got.
Interestingly, American Pie: Reunion is being advertised with the line “save the best piece for last”. It’s not the best, sadly, but it’s with a heavy heart that I do find myself hoping it’s the last.