By Bob Garver
Watching “American Reunion,” it occurred to me how similar the “American Pie” series is to the “Final Destination” series. The “American Pie” series is a scatological comedy franchise known for convoluted sequences where everything seems to go wrong at once and the characters end up humiliated. The “Final Destination” series is a horror franchise known for convoluted sequences where everything seems to go wrong at once and the characters end up dead. Both franchises are over a decade old and still coming out with new installments. The films of both are about two-thirds filler while we wait for the Really Good Parts. And both make me laugh like a sicko when they do get to the Really Good Parts.
“American Reunion” is the fourth installment of “American Pie” to be released in theaters with the main cast (four direct-to-DVD “American Pie Presents” sequels are related in name only). It has been nine years since 2003’s “American Wedding” and everybody’s back in town for a belated high school reunion. Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are still married and now have a kid, but they seem to be growing apart lately. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is having doubts about his marriage and is tempted to get back with his ex-girlfriend Vicky (Tara Reid). Oz (Chris Klein) is tired of his shallow lifestyle and longs to get back with his ex-girlfriend Heather (Mena Suvari), who is now dating a jerk doctor. Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has suddenly reappeared after a long absence with an exciting account of the past few years. Stifler (Seann William Scott) is still Stifler, a perpetual man-child who lives an unsuccessful life as a temp. He seemed to be doing pretty well as a high school football coach in “American Wedding”, one can only guess what he did to lose that job in the meantime.
As with the rest of the films, the action mostly centers around Jim. He earnestly tries to reignite the passion in his marriage to Michelle, but everything and everybody else is always getting in the way. He handles it in the traditional Jim way, which is to say horribly. The scariest obstacle involves Kara (Abi Cobrin), a neighbor girl he used to babysit who is now 18. She apparently always had a crush on him, and although he doesn’t take her advances seriously, everyone else does. The potential for humiliation grows and grows until possible consequences include divorce, arrest, and beatings.
The storylines for Kevin, Finch, Oz, and Stifler all scream “filler”. The only subplot that makes an impact is one that features Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy). Once again, he offers his son awkward advice on subjects that children don’t like to discuss with their parents. But this time, he needs some help himself. His wife died a few years ago and he’s been feeling lonely. Jim makes a project of getting him back into the dating scene. He eventually falls for Stifler’s Mom (Jennifer Coolidge), subject of an obscene acronym from the original movie that has since become surprisingly commonplace in American society. Levy fills the role with just the right combination of humor, discomfort, sympathy, and yes, even wisdom to make it an exceptional comedic performance.
The characters in “American Reunion” may have evolved from “American Pie”, but the humor hasn’t. It’s still of the immature sex-and-bathroom variety. As for the characters evolving, who cares? You saw how I glossed over most of them in the last paragraph, I guarantee most viewers gloss over them in the same way. Plus the film tries to cram even more familiar faces on screen as if the audience is going through a checklist. Okay I was, but the majority of the audience won’t be. “American Reunion” thinks that people remember “American Pie” for its overall story when in fact people remember it for a few disgusting scenes a.k.a. the Really Good Parts.
Two and a Half Stars out of Five.
“American Reunion” is rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, language, brief drug use, and teen drinking. Its running time is 113 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at [email protected].