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Overall Rating
3.43

Awesome: 4.76%
Worth A Look61.9%
Average: 4.76%
Pretty Bad: 28.57%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 3 user ratings



American Reunion
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by Brett Gallman

"Reheated pie still tastes pretty good."
4 stars

Like any high school reunion, the appeal of “American Reunion” depends on how much you actually liked the people you went to school with. In this case, I’d say I treasure the East Great Falls class of ‘99 more so than my own graduating class. While I was only a freshman in high school when this bunch graduated after the events of the original “American Pie,” I still feel like I grew up with them, and their first two outings especially were landmarks (part 2 was among the first R-rated movies I ever saw in a theater without parental guidance). And even though I stuck with the franchise long enough to know that this is actually the eighth slice of pie, I was more than happy to catch up with this gang--call it nostalgia porn or sentimental baiting, but this is one of the reasons I go to the movies: to see familiar faces, even when they’re headed up by a guy who once screwed a pastry.

As it turns out, Jim (Jason Biggs) hasn’t changed much, nor have Oz (Chris Klein), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), or Stifler (Seann William Scott)--especially Stifler. Sure, their circumstances have changed--Jim and Michelle’s marriage is in a sexual rut, Oz is a nationally recognized sportscaster (a role that perfectly exploits Klein’s lunk-headed, Keanu-lite shtick), Kevin’s a housewife, Finch is a high class man of the world, and Stifler is stuck with a crappy job. But despite all this, the guys make yet another pledge during this reunion weekend: to “make it their bitch” and relive their glory days.

Obviously, there's a lot of reminiscing going on, as “American Reunion” casts a longing gaze back at the late 90s, and it sort of turns out that we haven’t come too far from that either. In fact, it’s eerie how little things have changed aesthetically, and the film almost has to go out of its way to point out how long ago those 13 years were, so there’s references to Ricky Martin and the dark ages before cell phones. Something about it seems really quaint, and sometimes “American Reunion” feels less like a movie and more like a series of call backs not only to this stuff, but also the events of previous films. Remember that time Jim blew his load on the internet--twice? Of course we do, and so does everyone else since he’s somehow still a Youtube sensation 13 years later (if nothing else, this film grossly over-estimates the lifespan of internet memes).

But “American Reunion” isn’t all about strolling down memory lane, as there are plenty of new antics that recall the franchise’s raunchy roots. Even some of these--such as Jim once again being caught in a precarious position with a tube sock--are throwbacks to previous films, but other hijinx are a bit more fresh, if not as juvenile as ever. Some involve a clash with the more obnoxious younger generation who are (of course) up to the same sort of things these guys were doing in their prime (and decades of sex comedies have taught us that bikini thievery is timeless). Another involves one of the film’s main conflicts--Jim’s now barely-legal next door neighbor (Ali Corbin) who wants him to resume his duties as her babysitter. When she gets a little too smashed and needs a ride home, it leads to a set piece that’s classic “American Pie,” as getting her unconscious (and half naked) body in the house requires strategy that only the “Stifmeister” can provide.

All of this leads to more obvious conflicts with Michelle, and there’s other drama you can almost set your watch to: when Oz’s old flame Heather (Mena Suvari) enters the picture with her new boyfriend, feelings are stirred. Ditto for when Vicki (Tara Reid, on loan from the local Botox clinic) strolls in and complicates things for Kevin. Even Finch runs into some trouble as he tries to strike up a romance with a former band geek (Dania Ramirez).

And then there’s Stifler, the loud mouth cretin who somehow became the franchise’s mascot, so much so that Seann William Scott almost swallowed “American Wedding” whole with his amped up, cartoonish take on the character. He’s dialed back down here, but make no mistake: of all the guys, he’s changed the least over the years, as he’s still every bit as oblivious, crass, obscene--and likeable. That’s the weird thing about Stifler--he was originally presented as the jockish, 80s style antagonist for our more affable guys, but Scott somehow found the charm buried down in this oaf and turned him into one of the boys. He’s gone one step further in "American Reunion" by becoming the film’s heart and soul--he’s not only the dickhead with the heart of gold, but also the guy that’s carrying whatever angst this series has.

As you might expect, he’s completely stuck in the past, and, yes, this plays out as predictably as it sounds since “American Reunion” has to hit the requisite beats where everyone reveals their lives haven’t turned out exactly how they’ve wanted them to (a lot of this treads on the same ground as part 2). That it funnels this so well through Stifler and that Scott actually makes you feel it in his performance is kind of a triumph--somehow, Stifler doesn’t come off as that pathetic, creepy guy still prowling around high school parties. Instead, he’s somewhere in the Wooderson range, albeit much less perceptive. Besides, all the pontificating is left up to Jim’s dad, as Eugene Levy once again returns to provide even more heart and laughs, especially when he’s unleashed in a way we haven’t seen before.

Anyone who is familiar with the franchise shouldn’t be all that surprised by this; while everyone might remember it as the series that’s full of raunchy exploits, it also had a real John Hughes level sweetness. A recent revisit with the first three films actually revealed how damn syrupy and sappy they often are, and “American Reunion” lays this on thicker than any entry yet, especially during the actual reunion. It’s at this point that the film trots out more familiar faces like Natasha Lyone, Shannon Elizabeth, and others. Even John Cho’s “Milf Guy #2” gets an unexpectedly great character arc that’s like a cherry on top of all this. There are some jokes with punch lines that were set up years ago, and I love “American Reunion” for that--it is unabashedly full of call backs and in jokes that will please fans of this series.

On that note, “American Reunion” might be the scariest movie of the year for me since I’m now ten years removed from high school, and I’ve found myself with the same sort of anxieties as these guys. I won’t be attending my own ten year reunion, and I’m glad the Class of ‘99 screwed up and had to have theirs a few years late to compensate and keep me company. In the original movie, Jim is told that third base feels like “warm apple pie”; in keeping with that “American Reunion” is like a warm bath that soaks you in familiarity and nostalgia, right down to the strains of 90s alt rock.

Just seeing this set of actors together somehow feels like a breath of fresh air when it shouldn’t; that many of them are playing characters whose lives are somewhat disappointing doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch since so few of them found success once the new millennium dawned. It’s like someone raided a “next big thing” list from the 90s here. If nothing else, I’m glad someone remembered that Mena Suvari actually exists, even if she is a little sidelined here along with the rest of the female contingent.

Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (the guys behind “Harold and Kumar”) have taken the reigns and delivered something heretofore unseen: not only is “American Reunion” the first teen comedy sequel to revisit its characters this far down the road in life, but it’s also a sweet little success that’s both funny and poignant. Its recipe is simple and obvious, and maybe it tastes better for those who were weaned on this formula, but I’m okay with that.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=22454&reviewer=429
originally posted: 04/06/12 19:03:51
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User Comments

3/07/13 Kurt Better than I expected. 4 stars
5/17/12 Geraldine More stale than the previous movies but Eugene Levy provided some genuine laughs. 3 stars
4/07/12 Dan A.P. has a special place in my 30 y/o heart. Reunion is best yet. It's true to life. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  06-Apr-2012 (R)
  DVD: 10-Jul-2012

UK
  02-May-2012 (15)

Australia
  05-Apr-2012 (MA)
  DVD: 10-Jul-2012




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