American Reunion recaptures the magic of ’99

By theredraylives | April 8, 2012

American Reunion
dir. Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Seann William Scott, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Chris Klein, Mena Suvari, Eugene Levy
Four out of Five Stars

In the summer of ’99, this reviewer was fresh out of high school and facing the world ahead- facing the “next step” in my life. Along came a little movie called American Pie, a raucous and raunchy comedy about high school, virginity, and growing up. Of course it had all the staples of the raunchy teen comedy- drinking, swearing, more screentime for breasts than some characters, and absurd characters (looking at you, Sherminator), but at its core was a film about the friendship of four men, about learning how to grow up, about the broken road one leaves behind and the bumpy road ahead. As a nineteen-year-old still learning his way about the world, the film carried the all-too important thought that everybody’s gotta grow up- the characters did, and so did I.

The regular cast of the Pie flicks haven’t been seen together in some time- they haven’t all been together since 2001′s American Pie 2 (half of the cast was either left out- or was written out- of American Wedding). So the main question that must be asked is- especially after the atrocious Wedding and the throw-away direct-to-DVD sequels- can they re-capture the magic of Pie 1 (and to a lesser extent, the sequel)? The answer is a resounding yes. American Pie was never about one person, it was about the whole cast, their bond, their friendships, and their shared humiliations, failures, and victories. American Reunion succeeds on all of these levels, bringing back the laughter for one last hilarious slice.

It’s the thirteenth reunion at East Great Falls, but we join our characters in their adult lives to see where they are now. Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are still married, now with a kid, but seem to have hit a pothole in their marriage. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is married and a freelance architect, but is mostly a house husband. Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has disappeared off the radar, and Oz (Chris Klein) is a successful sports broadcaster and pseudo-celebrity dating the utterly vacuous Mia (Katrina Bowden). All of them decide to head back into town for the reunion, though none of them decides to tell Stifler (Seann William Scott), who is still as immature as ever. Getting the four together takes a bit, as the writers take time to re-acquaint the audience with the characters, and this part of the film is admittedly its one downfall, as it is rather slow and isn’t very funny (Mia and her gay interior decorator are eye-rolling at best).

Eventually the four guys head back into town. Jim runs into a girl he used to babysit, the almost-eighteen Kara (Ali Cobrin), who is overjoyed to see her old babysitter. Jim is tasked with spending time with the guys for the weekend, but also trying to find time to spend with Michelle, as both have realized the gap between them is growing larger. All four guys return and run into Stifler, and the five of them promise to make the weekend one they’ll never forget.

From here the film is, in every sense, a true successor to the original Pie. Kevin and Oz’s lost loves return in Vicky (Tara Reid) and Heather (Mena Suvari), and old feelings come rushing back. In a welcome bit of character development, Finch doesn’t spend the film pining over Stifler’s Mom (Jennifer Coolidge), but has instead met the geek-turned-gorgeous Selena (Dania Ramirez). All of the old staples of the Pie series that made it such a winning hit return- Jim suffers more public humiliations, Stifler’s antics are outrageous, Kevin is still boring, and Oz is still hung up on Heather. The guys get stuck in ridiculous situations that they try to squirm themselves out of.

The great thing about Reunion is that, even though it is treading familiar territory, the film still feels fresh and funny, and isn’t just a ripoff of the first two. Instead it is a great reflection on the fact that things for the characters have changed so much, but that they are undoubtedly still who they are and will never escape that. No matter how much they change, they’re still the same people, and best of all the writers knew how to dial it down with the over-the-top nonsense. Stifler is not nearly as absurd and ridiculous as he is in American Wedding, which was one of the film’s biggest issues- but he’s still Stifler. That said, one of the worst (and best) parts of Reunion is the guys trying to avoid Stifler and still blaming him for being stuck in high school- but by the end they realize that he is one of them, and that without him they just wouldn’t be whole. They’re not necessarily wrong- Stifler, of all the characters, is still trying to hold onto a life that has long-since ended, and he is finally forced to take the “next step” that has been a running theme of this series- the whole series comes full-circle, and that’s why it resonates so much.

The film can be forgiven for being slow, and for some forced dialogue (especially early on), and for throw-away cameos by the returning Jessica (Natasha Lyonne) and Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth). Particularly the former, whose screentime might be 45 seconds, and none of it is actually shared with Vicky, her best friend in the first two films. But for any negative it might have, it is outweighed a thousand times by the film’s great moments. Now watching as a 31-year-old adult, removed from college and settled into the hum-drum grind of a daily commute and bills and responsibilities, the film reminds me that one is only as young as one feels- that memories are the most precious things of all- and that whatever life may bring, for all its boredom and drab situations, one’s youth only endures as long as one remembers it. Boredom is okay, the daily grind is okay, as long as we remember who we are. Ultimately, we hold onto the past not that we may live in it, but that it may live through us, waiting for those times we get a chance to re-capture it. The past can bring reflection, but the past can also breed change. Four out of Five Stars.

By Nicholas Haskins

Be sure to check out the trailers for American Reunion, including the photobooth trailer and the feature trailer. Take a look back at the rest of the Pie legacy in my review of the original trilogy! Speaking of reviews, if you are a fan of mine, you can find this and others over at my examiner.com page. Want to become my fanboy/girl? You can follow me on Twitter or book my face, and you can subscribe to my reviews.


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