Sometimes, it’s hard to believe American Pie came out more than 12 years ago. Back then, I was still a freshman high school dork, popping pimples like some kid shooting water balloons at a fair. Along with zapping zits, The Matrix and the Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” video, watching American Pie was probably one of the highlights of the summer of 1999. It was one of the first R-rated sex comedies I had watched and like a lot of my fellow 14-year olds, it was all at once, fresh, exciting and one of the funniest movies I had seen! Of course, in the 12 years that have followed 1999, I’ve significantly grown as a moviegoer, nurtured a habit of film snobbism, and shockingly, even grown as a person. Time, however, hasn’t been too kind to the series, and compared to today’s crop of Judd Apatow/Todd Phillips comedies, American Pie and its two theatrical sequels feel – tame.
American Reunion, the fourth and presumably final film in the series, tries to spike up the old formula for today’s audiences but like its two predecessors, is a mix bag where some gags work while others fall flat on their faces. Writing-directing team Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (the Harold & Kumar movies) try to inject an extra dose of raunchiness into the proceedings but unfortunately, what’s supposed to feel raunchy only feels sophomoric – especially since the guys in question are all in their mid-30s. Think of it as a “teenage comedy” with the word “teen” erased from it. What we’re left with is a bunch of “aged” guys whining about their 9 to 5 jobs and marriages.
Instead of feeling like a sequel, Reunion plays more like a formulaic rehash of its predecessors – At one point Jim (Jason Biggs) will get busted by somebody without his pants, he will have a masturbation mishap, his dad (Eugene Levy) will give him an awkwardly long lecture on sex, the boys will get embarrassed in front of a group of people, Stifler (Sean William Scott) will be hated by everyone, and the movie will end at a big party where everything will turn out all right.
“Reunion” as the title implies, catches up with the entire crew from the first film as they return to their hometown for their 13th High School Reunion. That’s an odd number if you ask me but, it makes sense chronologically. Jim and Michelle (Allyson Hannigan) are going through a rough patch in their marriage thanks to their son who’s taking up all their free time. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is now a happily married architect who longs to spend some time with his friends. Oz (Chris Klein) has become a successful sportscaster whose biggest claim to fame was a disastrous stint on a Dancing with the Stars-like reality TV show. The oddball Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has been travelling the globe, and dishing out pretentious nonsense while he’s at it, to impress his friends and naturally, the ladies. He even manages to score one in the ravishing Dania Ramirez. As for Stifler – he’s the same horny toad we know from the previous movies– just jobless and career-less. He may be a selfish asshole who embarrasses everyone but he’s still the life of the party (and the only reason to watch the movie). A payback he delivers to a group of obnoxious teens featuring an ice bucket and a pair of jet skis will be a series highlight.
As in the previous films, the guys once again go through embarrassing shenanigans that test their relationships and friendships – Jim starts getting hit on by a sexy 18-year-old (Ali Cobrin) whose advances test his sexless marriage with Michelle; Oz starts to once again have feelings for Heather (Mena Suvari), his high school sweetheart, even though he’s in a relationship with a nymphomaniac; and Kevin has a momentary lapse of judgment when he meets up with ex-flame Vicky (Tara Reid). The problem with these subplots is that despite the best intentions of the writers and the valiant effort of the cast, it’s not overtly fresh or funny anymore. You’d have to be a resident of Pluto to not deduce what’s going to happen next.
Despite these grating flaws, the film scrapes by on the talents of its charismatic cast – specifically Scott and Levy, who make any scene better by just by being in them. Scott gets all the best lines and best scenes – detailing them here would be a spoiler since practically every scene he’s in is gold. Levy, also gets much more to do this time, owing to the fact that Jim’s dad is now a widower and a newly single dad on the market. Stay for the credits because his date with Stifler’s mom at a movie theater is hands-down, the movie’s best scene. Sadly, when the film’s best scene takes place post-credits, it’s a cold-reminder that this series has long passed its expiry date.
Written & Directed by: Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg
Starring: Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein
Rated: R (for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, language, brief drug use and teen drinking)