A film review by Craig J. Koban April 11, 2012
2012, R, 112 mins.
2012, R, 112 mins.
Jim: Jason Biggs / Stifler: Seann William Scott / Oz: Chris
Klein / Michelle: Alyson Hannigan / Jim's dad: Eugene Levy / Stifler's
mom: Jennifer Coolidge
Well before the screen comedy canon of Judd Apatow there was 1999’s AMERICAN PIE, a then unheard of hard R-rated teen sex comedy that became both a critical and box office darling.
the directorial debut of brothers Paul and Chris Weitz, the first PIE film
– which spawned two sequels of varying degrees of quality
and a series of truly forgettable direct-to-video spin-offs – contained
a unique conglomeration of sweetness and raunchiness while giving a
self-acknowledging wink to many of the horny adolescent comedies
that typified the 80’s. What
made the first AMERICAN PIE film special and envelope pushing was that it
created personas of genuine interest.
The film was not just concerned with T and A and bathroom humor
(even though it had ample amounts of just that); it wanted us to identify
with its anxiety and sex-starved teens.
REUNION attempts to capture the lightning-in-a-bottle freshness and
innovation of that first film, and even though this fourth film has a
numbing sense of déjà vu, it modestly succeeds in ways that even the
initial entry in the PIE Quadrilogy didn’t.
The first film was about discovering the teen characters during the
height of their sexual insecurities and nagging self-doubts, but this new
film is about re-connecting with these same people – well into their
thirties and well past high school – as they are dealing will new forms
personal dilemmas. AMERICAN
REUNION is not the first film’s equal when it comes to daring
originality, but the enjoyment derived from watching it is primarily
nostalgic: it wants us to re-connect with past characters and see them
through a new series of social tribulations.
AMERICAN REUNION is not attempting to outdo its predecessors as
much as it’s trying to fulfill the audience’s comfort-food-like
requirement to come back to this franchise and have fun again.
years has past since the old gang from East Great Falls have graduated
high school and now news of a “13th high school reunion” has surfaced,
which arguably marks the first time in movie history that anyone wants to
13th high school reunion.
Jason Biggs’ Jim (who infamously pleasured himself with a dish
that’s pure Americana in the first film) is now married to the former band-camp obsessed
and semi-sexual deviant Michelle (Alyson Hannigan)
and they now have a two-year-old son. Chris
Klein’s Oz, the former high school jock with a heart of gold, became a Celebrity Dance Off contestant turned ESPN broadcaster that finds it hard
to stay emotionally grounded in a relationship with his trophy girlfriend
(Katrina Bowden). Deep down,
he still pines for his high school ex-girlfriend, Heather (Mena Suvari),
but they went their separate ways years ago.
the rest of the gang? Thomas Ian Nicholas’ Kevin has long since broken up with
Vicky (Tara Reid) and now finds himself being a male homemaker while his
wife works. And who could
forget the “Stiffmeister General” himself, Seann William Scott’s
Steve Stiffler is still an unrelenting skirt-chasing man-child that has
not really matured beyond high school.
He now works a demeaning job as a temp at an investment firm who
still holds a grudge against Eddie Kay Thomas’ Finch for being a literal
and multiple-offending mother-fucker (you may recall that he slept with Stiffler’s mother in
the first and second film). Finch’s
precise whereabouts are unknown, but he supposedly has been living the
life of a globetrotting adventurer. Riiiiggghhht.
most of these characters struggled with issues of getting laid in the
initial film, they now are plagued with more adult-related concerns (of
course, unless you're Stiffler, who still wants to party and get laid):
Jim and Michelle live a fairly sexless marriage due to their new
parental responsibilities; Kevin feels emasculated by his housekeeping
duties at home; Oz has money and fame, but he has no one he truly cares about to
share it with...and so on. The film exists primarily for getting all of these characters
back together and at times battles stunning banality (gee, I wonder if Oz
will pine over getting back Heather and abandon his dim-witted, ecstasy
pill popping bimbo girlfriend?), not too mention that writer/directors Jon
Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (of HAROLD AND KUMAR fame) seem very
preoccupied with pratfalls and gags involving fecal matter, vomit,
masturbation, and erect penises being crushed by laptops.
More often than not, AMERICAN REUNION feels like its lazily
objectifying its licentiousness at the risk of losing its way trying to tell an
interesting story involving its characters.
are just minor nitpicks, though, because AMERICAN REUNION still generates
ample hilarity from the awkward situations it places its hapless
characters in: Jim is still a
bumbling dweeb even in his thirties that manages to find himself
inadvertently involved with a girl that he use to baby-sit, now an
18-year-old buxom goddess that still crushes after him.
Stiffler, to be fair, has owned this series right from the
beginning, and even though the sight of a mid-thirtysomething pathetically
feigning interest in TWILIGHT in order to score with some high school
senior beach babes is, at face value, kind of creepy, Scott always manages
to make his character a lovable moron that just has no idea how to keep
his libido in check. Stiffler,
to his credit, does manage to get some comeuppance on Finch for his past
indiscretions with his mother that seems…well…perversely fair.
get to hook back up with my favorite character in the entire series,
Jim’s dad, played ingeniously by Eugene Levy who occupied the past
films’ need to have scenes between father and son where he dispensed
uncomfortable advice to Jim on matters as far ranging as masturbation to
porn mags to the location of the clitoris in order to give him a crash
course on the birds and the bees, much to Jim’s increasingly funny
dismay. Jim’s dad is now
widowed, alone, still dispensing embarrassing sex advice to Jim ("You'd be
surprised what you could do with a well placed thumb") and
desperately seeking another to share his time with, which brings him on an
almost preordained collision course with Stiffler’s horny-all-the-time
mother (Jennifer Coolidge). Watching
this father go from a sad sack to a booze guzzling, pot-smoking hipster
(during a late stage party sequence) is one of the film’s sublime
delights. The next day he
exclaims – in his obligatory congenial and soft-spoken manner – “I
honestly think that I had fun.”
AMERICAN REUNION is by no means perfect. Chris Klein and Tara Reid remind us more than ever why they have been the performance weak-links in the series. Mena Suvari maintains a disinterested malaise throughout most of the film. Beyond that, the film is far, far too long at nearly two hours, which is frustrating considering that they could have very easily trimmed the under-a-minute, paycheck-grabbing cameos by former PIE vets Natasha Lyonne and Shannon Elizabeth to name some (they emerge as superfluous inclusions at best). Also, for a film that tries to lather on the theme that mid-30’s life is beset with complications, AMERICAN REUNION manages to wrap up its thorny story threads rather conveniently and simplistically. Still, this fourth film in the PIE series is amusing enough and still bridges its dirty-minded ribaldry with sincerity rather well to warrant a recommendation.
and a little bit of the Stiffmeister and Jim’s Dad goes an awfully long