The 1990s have not enjoyed the level of nostalgia that people still bathe upon the ‘70s and ‘80s. Case in point: the fourth installment of the “Scream” franchise didn’t even make half as much as the third one (even though it’s much better), and that is including inflation. The decision to make another “American Pie” movie, then, was curious, to say the least. Yes, 2003’s “American Wedding,” the last official installment in the “American Pie” franchise (not including those “National Lampoon”-esque video sequels), made over $100 million, but is it anyone’s favorite movie? Even the 2001 sequel was pretty awful. Is anyone really asking for this movie?
Perhaps not, but “American Reunion” is fortunately better than one would have the right to expect. It’s not perfect by any means – most of the characters are still stuck in arrested development, if only because it’s convenient for the plot – but when it finds its groove, the movie delivers some quality laughs, along with several low blows, and even then, some of those are pretty funny.
The East Great Falls High School class of 1999 is having their 10-year anniversary a few years late. Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) and his wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are looking forward to it, as parenthood (they now have a 2-year-old son) has had a crippling effect on their once-active sex life. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is happily married and works from home, but could use some boy time. Oz (Chris Klein) has the hot girlfriend and the flashy TV gig, but he still pines for Heather (Mena Suvari). Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), meanwhile, has become, as Jim jokes, The Most Interesting Man in the World. And then there’s Stifler (Seann William Scott), who’s the same loudmouth jackass that he’s always been. The gang spends four nights together. Stuff happens. Lives are changed.
The opening scene is actually one of the most disappointing scenes in the movie. It’s big and ridiculous and raunchy, per “American Pie” protocol, but it’s also patronizing. They’ve shown that they can do better in the past – and they do just that later on, especially during the scene they sneak into the final credits – but the intro feels like it’s trying just a bit too hard to be like its old self. What makes “American Reunion” tick is when it decides to act its age, or at least to a point, anyway. Seann William Scott has gone on to show that he has more depth as a comedic actor than “American Pie” suggested, but he gets back into the Stifler character with such blunt force that it borders on the sublime. It’s sublime within reason, mind you, but he steals the movie in a completely different way than he may have done so in the past.
Splitting hairs over the story’s weaknesses (the idiot plot involving Kevin and Vicky, for example) is beside the point. Conflict needs to take place in order to set up later events, and even though some of the conflicts border on the creepy (say, the events involving Jim and his former neighbor Kara, who’s now 18 and gorgeous), it’s easy to forgive because, hey, it’s an “American Pie” movie. They may have some smarts behind them, but they’re also pretty dumb. If “American Reunion” proves anything, it’s that it’s sometimes smart to play dumb; it lowers expectations, and that gives the filmmakers the element of surprise, and this was a pleasant surprise.(3 / 5)
This originally ran April 6, 2012 on Bullz-Eye.com.