Movie Review: American Reunion
By Matthew Huntley
April 9, 2012
American Reunion is one of those rare members of an established comedy franchise because it could potentially appeal to those unfamiliar (or unimpressed) with the series up till now. I admit I’ve liked the American Pie movies since they began rolling out in the summer of ’99 and have stuck by each of the theatrical releases. They formed a soft spot in my heart, I suppose, because the characters were always around my age and I could identify with their coming-of-age ordeals, save for the extreme ones (I can’t say I’ve ever felt the urge to make love to a pie).
Does not every moviegoer make such a connection to a teen comedy, specifically one that came out when they were a teenager? Some have sworn loyalty to National Lampoon’s Animal House, The Breakfast Club, or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. For me, and probably for a whole lot of others who graduated high school near the turn of the 20th century, there was American Pie.
What’s good about American Reunion is the conditions to like and laugh at the material are less stringent than the previous installments. You needn’t be a 28-30-year-old to appreciate it. The humor and situations are broader, the characters are better-rounded, and with the wide range of the antics that take place on-screen, there’s something for everyone. This makes it easy to recommend not only to its target audience, but also to those who were skeptical about giving the other movies a chance.
As the title suggests, the movie brings back all those horny kids from East Great Falls, Michigan so they can attend their high school reunion. The whole gang is here: Jim (Jason Biggs), Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Oz (Chris Klein), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), Heather (Mena Suvari), Vicki (Tara Reid), Jessica (Natasha Lyone) and, of course, Stifler (Seann William Scott), a.k.a. the “Stifmeister.” The last time we visited this crew was in American Wedding (2003), when Jim and Michelle tied the knot, and we were left thinking everyone had grown up and was finally ready to take on adulthood, and with a firmer grasp on love and sex. They were no longer those insecure virgins from the original “Pie” whose chief concern was getting laid.
Oh, but we all know insecurity doesn’t discriminate based on age, especially when it comes to your love life and relationships. Nearly all these characters continue to have problems in that department. For instance, Jim and Michelle have let the spark go out of their marriage and haven’t had consistent sex since their two-year-old son was born. And Oz, now a minor celebrity and host of a sports cable show not unlike ESPN, is unsure of how long he can continue his adventures in L.A. or keep up with the demands of his model-girlfriend Mia (Katrina Bowden). There’s a part of him that longs for the quiet, conservative Heather. And then there’s Stifler, who feels left out of the inner circle because all his best buddies have either moved away, gotten married or started having kids.
Even poor Jim’s dad (the irreplaceable Eugene Levy) is at a crossroads. He’s now a widower and Jim thinks it’s high time he gets back out there and tries to meet somebody new. Whether that new somebody is Stifler’s voluptuous mom (Jennifer Coolidge), I’ll leave for you to discover, but Levy has a more prominent role this time around and the movie benefits greatly from his reaction shots and deadpan delivery.
It would take too long to summarize all the characters’ woes, not to mention the crazy hijinks that ensue once these guys reunite, but let’s just say the movie contains trademark American Pie moments, including a stretched out sequence where Jim has to sneak a naked 18-year-old girl home and put her to bed without her parents or Michelle finding out. Such moments are unbelievable, sure, but they keep the laughs coming. And it just wouldn’t be “AP” without some doses of bodily fluid humor, which include the kinds that come out of both ends of the human body. Does the series break new ground by showing male frontal nudity for the first time? Not in this post-Judd Apatow day and age, but a single shot does earn the movie one of its biggest laughs.
Where the movie is believable, and where the American Pie movies have always been credible, is in its heart. The characters are just as sweet, likable and down-to-earth as they ever were, and because the filmmakers have so much affection for them, we continue to view them as sympathetic victims instead of perpetrators, which makes the vile humor easier to take and go along with.
I’m not sure how far this franchise can go before it runs too thin. Will we eventually see Jim and company at middle age? Or perhaps as horny senior citizens? Who’s to say, but what’s true of American Reunion is that it reinvigorates the series and does more than its fair share of delivering laughs and entertaining us. The directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg have found good sync with each other and infused the movie with a strong rhythm and energy, especially for a sex comedy that runs nearly two hours long. But to us it’s a light, fun and enjoyable two hours, so when the guys toast each other at the end and say, “Until next time,” we’re left looking forward to it.