American Reunion (2012)
Director : Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg
Screenplay : Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg (based on characters created by Adam Herz)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2012
Stars : Jason Biggs (Jim Levenstein), Alyson Hannigan (Michelle), Chris Klein (Oz), Thomas Ian Nicholas (Kevin), Tara Reid (Vicky), Seann William Scott (Steve Stifler), Mena Suvari (Heather), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Finch), John Cho (MILF Guy #2), Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler’s Mom), Eugene Levy (Jim’s Dad), Ali Cobrin (Kara), Natasha Lyonne (Jessica), Dania Ramirez (Selena), Katrina Bowden (Mia), Jay Harrington (Dr. Ron), Chuck Hittinger (AJ), Shannon Elizabeth (Nadia), Chris Owen (Sherman)
Arriving nine years after the last installment in the series, American Reunion is true to its title, reuniting the entire cast of the raunchy high school comedy American Pie (1999) for the first time since, well, American Pie 2 (2001). Several cast members decided to sit out American Wedding (2003), so the prospect of bringing the entire group back together as adults, now more than a decade removed from their randy days as Clinton-era high school seniors striving to lose their virginity, has a natural allure for those who enjoyed the previous films. Like high school itself, there is an inherent curiosity in seeing where everyone ended up, although in real life such questions can easily be answered by checking Facebook (which is name-checked more than once in the movie). Thus, American Reunion’s greatest strength is built right in, and while the writing/directing team of Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg don’t completely squander it, the movie does lean a little too heavily on the familiar and fails to achieve that delicate balance of the nasty and the sweet that made the first one so memorable.
Like a James Bond movie, each American Pie entry must set the stage, not with an action-packed prologue, but with some form of sexual humiliation for the beleaguered, always vulnerable Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs), who, having married the lovably nympho “band geek” Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), has now settled into parenthood. Unfortunately, he and Michelle have hit a rut, and the opening sequence finds them both turning to alternate methods of sexual gratification that end, of course, in utter disaster. Jim’s high school buddies are a mix of success and disappointment. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is happily married, but is starting to itch at being a househusband, while Oz (Chris Klein) has hit it big as a successful sports broadcaster, although he is stuck in a meaningless relationship with a superficial model (Katrina Bowden). The only one of the bunch who seems to be truly living his dream is Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), who has been traveling the world in bohemian style, fulfilling his adolescent desire to stand apart and live by a different code.
And then, of course, there’s Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), who works as a temp at a huge investment firm and is constantly on the receiving end of the kind of debasement and humiliation that he was used to dishing out in his earlier years. Thankfully, it hasn’t stopped him from being a gleefully obnoxious prick whose sexual politics rate somewhere beneath a caveman and whose sense of humor and fun are eternally mired in adolescence. While everyone else in the movie has been striving to grow up in some sense, Stifler hasn’t even tried, although one of the film’s more labored lessons involves his realization that, much as he’d like to, you can’t spend your whole life partying like it’s 1999.
The old friends are brought back together to celebrate their 13th high school reunion (don’t ask) in East Great Falls, Michigan, which allows Hurwitz and Schlossberg to both indulge in all manner of vulgar antics while also contrasting the now older characters with current high school students, who are more sexually charged and obnoxious than Jim and company ever dreamed they could be (it makes one wonder just how more debased adolescence can become). There’s a potential gold mine of material there, but the movie largely sidesteps the issue after raising it, preferring instead to develop a lengthy subplot about Kara (Ali Cobrin), the little girl next door who Jim used to babysit and who is now an overdeveloped 18 year old who really wants Jim to come to her birthday party. While Jim is dealing with temptation, both Kevin and Oz find their old feelings reignited by the presence of their ex-girlfriends, Vicky (Tara Reid) and Heather (Mena Suvari). The dynamic between Kevin and Vicky is largely stale, but the growing heat between Oz and Heather is nicely reminiscent of the more tender elements of the series.
Unfortunately, Hurwitz and Schlossberg, who have spent their entire cinematic careers writing and then directing the devolving Harold & Kumar series (the first of which remains one of the great gems of smart comedic raunch), are much more interested in the vulgar than the tender, and the balance throws the movie out of whack, especially for those who might be in some sense genuinely interested in the characters. They come up with a few nice twists on old scenarios, especially the subplot involving Jim’s always well-meaning, but awkward dad (Eugene Levy), who is now a widower and possibly in need of some advice from his eternally awkward son. Outside of that, there is no real character growth to be had, and much of American Reunion simply rehashes elements from the previous films, with only modest results. While it was good to see the characters again, one wishes that the filmmakers had found some more interesting things to do with them then put them back through the motions, demonstrating (once again) that growing up is hard to do.
Copyright ©2012 James Kendrick
Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick
All images copyright © Universal Pictures