AMERICAN REUNION (2012)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares
There were times when I was sitting in the audience, watching AMERICAN REUNION, and wondering, “What’s the point?” Is there really a need for a new sequel to AMERICAN PIE? Are these characters even relevant anymore?
If I have to be honest, the answer is no. I really don’t know why AMERICAN REUNION was made. But I did laugh a few times, and there were moments when I felt a twinge of nostalgia. And hell, there’s a lot worse stuff out there getting made every year. So why not?
This time around, the gang from the original AMERICAN PIE (1999) are either in or approaching their early 30s, and things just aren’t the same. The series’ hero, Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) has married his high school sweetheart, Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) and they have a new baby. But they haven’t been intimate in months and are starting to worry that their marriage might be falling apart. So what will rejuvenate them? A trip back home for their high school reunion!
The rest of the gang is here, too. Including Chris Klein as Oz, now a celebrity anchor on a sports channel (and a competitor on a “Dancing with the Stars” type show), and he’s got a hot but promiscuous bimbo wife, Mia (Katrina Bowden); Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is married with a baby of his own; Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has traveled the world on his motorcycle; and Stifler (Seann William Scott) lives with his mother and is still the same moronic prankster he always was. Except now he works as a temp at a big corporation, where he acts as if he’s one of the bosses.
And of course there’s Eugene Levy as Jim’s Dad, and Jennifer Coolidge as Stifler’s mom.
There are a lot of regrets in this movie. Coming back to their hometown, Oz immediately bumps into his high school girlfriend, Heather (Mena Suvari), and realizes he’s made a big mistake by not marrying the girl he really loved. And Kevin has similar feelings when he’s reunited with old girlfriend, Vicky (Tara Reid). Jim also meets up with old next-door neighbor, Ellie (Charlene Amoia), who he used to babysit. She’s now a sexy 18 year old, who wants to lose her virginity to him. Jim is tempted, but he also wants to save his marriage. Having sex with a high school girl probably isn’t going to help that much.
There are lots of bittersweet subplots here, and it’s funny how, despite the laughs, there is a fair share of sadness in AMERICAN REUNION, as these characters grow up and find that they’re not always happy with the way their lives turned out.
Jason Biggs is still very likable as everyman Jim. I’ve always liked him, and he’s the heart of the series, and isn’t afraid to completely embarrass himself when the script calls for it. I always wished he would have had more of a movie career after AMERICAN PIE made him a star.
Chris Klein as Oz is actually kind of interesting now that his character is a semi-celebrity and people recognize him everywhere he goes. Klein is the kind of actor who looks like a leading man, but just hasn’t made the transition to anything big, for some reason. (Maybe because he’s just not that good an actor? Although that hasn’t stopped some other people from becoming stars).
I still have no clue what Thomas Ian Nicholas and Eddie Kaye Thomas are doing here (and what’s with all the three word names?). Nicholas is kind of a nice, earnest guy, but that role is already covered by Jim, so his existence in these movies seems redundant. His character Kevin just adds nothing to the proceedings and I didn’t care about him or his love issues at all. He’s like a generic buddy who has no depth and is easily forgettable.
As for Eddie Kaye Thomas as Finch, the guy hasn’t changed since the first movie, and still has the personality of a block of wood. What do these other guys see in Finch? He’s a blank slate who comes off as a robotic dork, yet everyone else acts like he’s the coolest guy on the planet. I just don’t get it. And I don’t understand why Kevin and Finch couldn’t be replaced by two more interesting, dynamic characters. But I guess it’s too late for that.
Seann William Scott is just as annoying as ever as Stifler, but I have to admit that, aside from Jim, he’s the best character here. Stifler fluctuates from being funny to being borderline psychotic, to being just plain irritating, all in the course of the same movie. When he ties some kids’ jet skis to his truck and destroys them, or takes a dump in their beer cooler, he really seems to be a complete sociopath, and is kind of creepy. Other times he just seems like a case of arrested development and you almost feel sorry for his child-like antics. And other times he is laugh-out-loud funny. But the fact that he’s the main one here who makes any effort to be funny at all makes him stand out from the pack. And no matter what the script gives him to work with, you can tell Scott gives it his all, even when it sucks.
Speaking of creepy, I still have no idea what to make of SCTV alumni Eugene Levy again reprising his role as Jim’s dad. There are times when he’s likable enough, and others when he is talking explicitly about sex to his son in such a skin-crawling way that I felt like I needed a shower afterwards. I know it’s supposed to be funny, but Levy’s character now, after all this time, just seems like a weird old guy who’s obsessed with sex, even though he pretends to treat it clinically. I found this shtick kind of funny in the first movie, but most of the time here, it kind of weirded me out. But it is funny when Stifler takes Jim’s Dad under his wing and gets him drunk at a party – and tries to get him laid as well (Jim’s mother has been dead for a few years when AMERICAN REUNION opens), and the relationship that develops between Jim’s Dad and Stifler’s slutty mother is actually pretty funny.
The women in these movies always seem to have less developed roles, and this time is no exception. Mena Suvari spends most of the movie just looking sad, even though she’s on the arm of a new boyfriend (Jay Harrington), who’s a cardiologist. Tara Reid stands around looking pretty (she still looks great), but really has nothing to do. Alyson Hannigan – who, along with Seann William Scott, are the only two cast members who have had any kind of real career after the AMERICAN PIE movies – is okay here, but spends most of the time looking flustered over Jim’s bad behavior. And Dania Ramirez is a welcome addition as Selena, and old high school friend of Michelle’s who has bloomed from an ugly duckling to a hot bartender, who takes a liking to Finch.
There are a few good moments, most of them revolving around that 18-year-old girl who wants to have sex with Jim – leading to lots of funny, awkward moments as he tries to resist temptation, despite her coming on strong. A scene where Jim tries to sneak the drunk (and naked) Ellie back into her parents’ house after a party is especially funny. And some of Stifler’s antics, including a scene where he finally stands up to his abusive boss, are pretty hilarious. Oh, and Stifler finally gets revenge on Finch for sleeping with his mother, in a very cool scene involving Rebecca De Mornay from another R-rated sex comedy classic, RISKY BUSINESS (1983).
AMERICAN REUNION took two people to direct it! Jon Hurtwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (who helped write all of the HAROLD AND KUMAR movies and who also directed 2008’s HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANTAMO BAY together). Seriously, did it really need two directors?
But as the closing credits rolled, I still found myself wondering who this movie was made for. Most of the people who were fans of the first movie probably are in similar situations as the characters in AMERICAN REUNION, but they also probably don’t go to the theater to see movies very often. I know that me and one other older guy in the audience were the only ones laughing at some of the references characters made to the first movie.
Younger kids who like R-rated sex comedies might find this one a bit too sentimental and nostalgic at times (and they probably won’t have any idea who these characters are!).
AMERICAN REUNION is being promoted as the “last piece of pie” in the AMERICAN PIE franchise. I think that might be a good thing, because this series really feels like it might have run its course. It might be time to try a different dessert.
I give AMERICAN REUNION ~ two and a half knives.
© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares
L.L. Soares gives AMERICAN REUNION ~ two and a half knives!