AMERICAN REUNION Review

When the first "American Pie" came out I was too young to even think about sneaking into it. Of course it became such a milestone of the late 90's and such a staple for the youth of that generation that once I was old enough I had to see what all the fuss was about. By the time the third installment came around in 2003 I was barely matching where the characters were in the first film and so I had a little marathon to build up to the release of "American Wedding" to finally become acquainted with these characters and see one of their romps on the big screen. Though I have always found the series to be kind of a second rate production to what has become my favorite kind of comedy and none of the actors give off a standout quality that makes them great comedic actors (William-Scott being the exception here) and that is evident by the kind of work they were given and how much success they saw after the first movie became a hit. Needless to say, for most of them this franchise is their bread and butter and so they have no problem returning for another slice. While this really had no right to be any good, it needed to be because the series had been slipping since the first one as comedies tend to do, but at least there is always a good amount of heart in these films and in seeing these characters back together completely for the first time in 13 years adds a good amount nostalgia to the project and distracts us from the fact that much of the story is rehashed gags from all of the previous films that have simply been applied to their current situation of a high school reunion. I liked the film though, it does in the end have so much heart and a consistent amount of laughs that it is hard to hate what the makers are trying to do here. In the grand scheme of things they succeed in bringing a fresh perspective to a series that could have fizzled out long ago.

From Left: Jim (Jason Biggs) Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas),
Oz (Chris Klein), and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas).
This time the guys behind the "Harold & Kumar" series have taken the helm and have constructed a story that clearly revolves around the high school reunion but have layered it with enough quality time dedicated to each character, and more importantly have developed the characters in ways that we truly believe their current predicaments. Jim (Jason Biggs) and wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) have been having a bit of a slump in the bedroom since the birth of their son, while Jim's dad (the always wonderful Eugene Levy) is having a hard time adjusting to life since his wife passed. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) has moved on, married and become a stay at home husband while Oz (Chris Klein) has become a successful sportscaster who dates models and also had a starring role on a "Dancing with the Stars" like reality show. Their high school loves Vicky (Tara Reid) and Heather (Mena Suvari) have pursued their careers and seem to have become nothing short of successful as Heather brings her heart surgeon beau to the reunion. As for Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) he hasn't really been heard from and Stifler (Sean William Scott) well, he is still pretty much Stifler and hasn't made it anywhere in the world except for serving as an office temp. The story obviously centers around these core characters but no need to worry, writer and directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg have rounded up pretty much anyone who ever appeared in one of these movies with Shannon Elizabeth, Natasha Lyonne, Chris "the Sherminator" Owen, and even both MILF guys making appearances. This all meshes surprisingly well and is laid out in a brisk hour and fifty minutes that simply feels like getting back together with old friends and having a good laugh even if most of the fun comes from reminiscing rather than making any new memories.

Stifler (Sean William Scott) is up to his usual antics.
While I expected a certain degree of the set-ups to be familiar here, Hurwitz and Schlossberg have pretty much continued the pattern of the core films in the series (I like to believe those straight to DVD entries don't exist) by putting Jim into horribly embarrassing situations that could only ever happen in the movies. Making Stifler the cause of pretty much all of them is a given while the other guys look on in sympathy while each dealing with their own romantic complications. This is all well and good and mostly understandable as this overall feels like more of a homage but the key is that it is done in such a way that these characters have at least become what we'd expect their adult versions to be. They have to come home to face their old self's and in turn face the idea that what they aspired to be when the world was much bigger hasn't really materialized in their actual lives. The first "American Pie" likely feels like a lifetime ago to these guys and in reuniting and getting a shot to reassess these characters it no doubt gave each of them a glimpse of how far they've come, and at least they all seem genuinely excited to be there, participating in something that defined their youth. That is the charm of the movie, that is what makes it a success because if we didn't know these guys, if we had no connection with them at all this wouldn't mean nearly as much. This also proves that if you are not a fan of the other films or if you haven't seen them then this will hold little relevance to you and you will likely be out of the loop on most of the jokes. It has its moments though and once again blends the raunch and tender moments with just the right amount of care.

Stifler's mom (Jennifer Coolidge) and Jim's dad (Eugene
Levy) get to know one another.
 For those that have been with the franchise since its early days though this will likely just be a treat to see the characters so many years later as you don't get the opportunity very often and the cast delivers on the persona's that made them stars. Biggs is still more than willing to do anything for a laugh including shoving his junk behind a glass lid. William Scott has had his character defined since that first film and has only perfected even more with each film. Even here, where you might think the Stifmeister might have settled down, alas it is from apparent from his first appearance on screen lets us know that everyone else may have gotten older, but Stifler is here to stay. This isn't a shortcoming on the writer's part, everyone knows that guy who hasn't grown up, Stifler is simply the epitome of that and William Scott plays it to the hilt. After skipping out on "American Wedding" Chris Klein returns and even gives a line that acknowledges him missing out on Jim's wedding (a personal thank you to the writers from me) but more importantly Klein gets a few great moments that show is talent for subtle humor. While Thomas Ian Nicholas and Eddie Kaye Thomas are probably just thankful for the paycheck the writers were also in not resorting back to Finch and Stifler's mom while keeping Tara Reid's scenes to a minimum. The real show stoppers though are Eugene Levy and Jennifer Coolidge providing some of the more gut busting moments throughout. As old pros of the series they still know how to get it done best. For those with an uptight sense of humor go ahead and stay home again, and while this never reaches Apatow territory, it is a lovely, funny little movie that reminds us all why we loved these characters in the first place. I'll leave it at that, knowing why I enjoyed it so much and knowing there's nothing wrong with a little bit of nostalgia.