MOVIE REVIEW: American Reunion

Mike Finkelstein is heading back home for his high school reunion. Luckily, he has been brushing up on the AMERICAN PIE films for all the things NOT to do when he gets back. Here is his review of “American Reunion.”

Mike Finkelstein is heading back home for his high school reunion.  Luckily, he has been brushing up on the AMERICAN PIE films for all the things NOT to do when he gets back.  Here is his review of “American Reunion.”

PLOT: Jim (Jason Biggs), Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), and the whole gang head back to their hometown of East Great Falls, Michigan for their 13-year High School reunion.  Hilarity, penis accidents, and poop jokes ensue.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  We live in the age of recycled film ideas.  Over the past few years, it seems like Hollywood has developed a passion for packing on an extra entry to an old, juicy trilogy to make some money.  Some work (SCREAM 4), and some don’t (INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, obviously).

When AMERICAN PIE first came out, it revitalized the teen sex comedy.  It was the first of its kind since PORKY’S, and led to an entire litter of copy cats and imitators.  When you look at a movie like AMERICAN REUNION, which holds that coveted PART IV asterisk, it almost seems dated.  You’re dropping in on these old friends from back around Y2K to see how their doing and realize that nobody has grown in the slightest.  Jim is still having awkward accidents concerning sex and his penis.  Jim’s dad is still giving the same old awkward advice.  Stifler is still acting idiotic and trying to party, Finch is still making cracks about banging Stifler’s mom, and Oz and Kevin are still stuck on the girls they could never let go of.  And you feel like maybe the time has passed.  You’re older now.  They’re older now.  It’s time to move on and grow up.

But here’s the thing…Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg pile on this nostalgia factor.  And for any kid who grew up in the 90s as PIE’s target audience, that nostalgia factor is king.  There are references galore to the first three, and there’s almost a weird comfort in seeing this gang on screen again, as well as a reassurance that despite whatever problems they’re having finding themselves as “adults”, they’re still the same screwy people they’ve always been.

In turn, we get a few very amusing scenarios that will make you smile and laugh.  Jim has to deal with a neighbor whom he used to babysit turning 18, and wanting him, out of all people, to be her first (enter some physical comedy, and an ill-timed stuffed cow).  All the while, he and Michelle are trying to find their sex lives after having a baby.  (Yeah…when both scenarios meet, it leads to one of the most ridiculous group fight scenes I’ve seen on film.)  Oz, Kevin and Finch also have their issues, but besides a hell of an entrance by Finch, it’s mostly forgettable.

More than anybody else, I have to praise Seann William Scott and Eugene Levy.  While I started to grow tired of Stifler’s shtick by WEDDING, I have to give Scott credit for committing so hard to the character and bringing the ridiculousness to another level.  And Jim’s Dad may have the perfect advice for every situation, but when the time comes for him to lose control, it brings us by far the best moments of the movie.

But then there’s another problem… AMERICAN PIE has been out of public view for almost a decade, now, replaced by the Judd Apatow and Will Ferrell troupes.  How do you draw in a new audience on a movie built so strongly on its predecessors?  You really can’t.  Yes, I had fun and you’ll get a few newcomers, but any audience besides my 90s group that the film was made for is automatically alienated by its subject matter.  It’s sad to say, but this probably won’t be the younger generation’s first priority to watch.  But if they haven’t seen the original trilogy yet, maybe that’s a good thing…

Despite eight years passing, our AMERICAN PIE characters have not changed in any way.  So much more could have been done with our group in this stage of our lives, but instead, AMERICAN REUNION gave us the same old jokes and the same exact structure beat for beat.  But how you enjoy the movie will really depend on where you are in your life right now.  If you’re a fan from the 90s, you’ll look past the mediocrity and be right in your comfort zone with a group of old friends.  If you’re used to loving lamp, slappin da bass, and voices that are combinations of Fergie and Jesus, then it’s more of a tossup.  For me, I have to respect Hurwitz and Schlossberg for making a film that tried to go for the heart more than the sex jokes.  Granted, that doesn’t mean I need another three or four entries (as the script so boldly hints at near the end…), but I’ll take this one as a worthy addition to the franchise, and hopefully, a nice little epilogue that lets us close the back cover of this story with an extra smile.

GRADE: B

Mike’s LIKES:

1) JIM’S DAD: Oh, Eugene Levy.  You are absolutely the man.  No matter how lost Jim’s dad is, the love for his son can still fill a football stadium.  And when the man who gives so much advice finally has his time to shine and get a little loving, you’ll be on the floor.  “The Fuzz!!!!”

2) MOTHERS: Stifler’s mom isn’t the only lucky lady to show up…all I can say is that it’s been a long time coming…

3) MUSIC TIME CAPSULE: Quick!  Think of every 90s rock hit you can think of in the next three seconds!  Everything that just came to your mind shows up, most specifically within the last half hour of the film.  Kind of cool, kind of sappy, kind of makes you want to dig out your old Semisonic cassette.

4) MILF! MILF! MILF!: John Cho and Justin Isfeld.  I could have sworn these two were gay.  Apparently not.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t still love the MILF chant, and how dramatic their reunion turns out to be.

5) STIFLER: Like I said, I got tired of the Stifmeister’s shtick a long time ago.  But 80% of the crazy moments you will remember from REUNION has to do with him, and without Stifler, this movie would have been nothing (makes sense now why every straight-to-DVD Presents entry has Stifler’s brother or cousin or long lost nephew once removed…)

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) SAME STRUCTURE: It’s the same story, down to the emotional “Full House”-ish talking-it-out moment.  If you’re coming back after eight years, give us something new and different.  Reinvent yourself.  Don’t just rip off the same skeleton from before.

2) OZ/KEVIN: There’s a reason why Oz wasn’t in WEDDING.  He’s really kind of boring.  To be honest, both Kevin and Oz are.  Yes, their stories are sweet, but if they were gone, I don’t think anybody would really miss them.

3) JET SKIS: A little too crazy.  I was expecting cops to show up at someone’s door the rest of the movie, but nothing.  A huge stunt that just disappeared when it could have had some ridiculously awkward/fun repercussions.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) The excuse for a 13-year high school reunion (odd number, no?) is that the school could not get the gang’s act together for a 10-year reunion.

2) First AMERICAN PIE movie not written by Adam Herz.

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