Surprise! American Reunion Is Hilarious!

(L to R) Kevin (THOMAS IAN NICHOLAS), Jim (JASON BIGGS), Stifler (SEANN WILLIAM SCOTT), Oz (CHRIS KLEIN) and Finch (EDDIE KAYE THOMAS) are together again in "American Reunion".  In the comedy, all the "American Pie" characters we met a little more than a decade ago return to East Great Falls for their high-school reunion.

Before Judd Apatow’s laugh factory, there was the American Pie Trilogy [and a handful of straight-to-DVD movies that weren’t as bad as they could have been, but warrant no further comment], a series of three R-rated comedies with hearts of gold and a core sweetness that made at least two of them great fun. American Reunion somehow manages to take the elements that made the originals work and update them in a way that feels fresh.

For some reason, the American Pie guys – Jim [Jason Biggs], Finch [Eddie Kaye Thomas], Oz [Chris Klein] and Kevin [Thomas Ian Nicholson] – managed to not make their ten-year high school reunion but are compelled to hit the thirteen-year party [right there, making it clear that they are still the odd bunch of guys from the original movies].

They are prompted by many of the usual kinds of reasons: Jim and Michelle [Alyson Hannigan] have a young son and aren’t getting any; Kevin’s freelance architect business essentially makes him a househusband; Oz is doing well – but not well enough – as co-host of a sports news show on a lesser network, but is better known for his time on a Dancing with The Stars clone, and Finch has been, to hear him tell it, giving The Most Interesting man In The world some stiff competition.

They plan to get together a few days early and spend some time together – a plan that is complicated by Michelle wanting some serious ‘us time’ with Jim, and the still crass Stifler [Sean William Scott] bumping into them in a pub on their first night back in town.

The use of a fresh crop of teens – including the now eighteen Kara [whom Jim babysat, but now wants him for other reasons] and her jackass boyfriend, AJ – to give the now older and soon to be wiser original crew some serious gears, allows all of the guys to first act like kids themselves, and then more maturely later [no matter how they’re dressed!].

Stifler's Mom (JENNIFER COOLIDGE) and Jim's Dad (EUGENE LEVY) finally meet in "American Reunion".  In the comedy, all the "American Pie" characters we met a little more than a decade ago return to East Great Falls for their high-school reunion.

Klein almost steals the movie out from under Scott and Biggs as the not terribly bright, but oh so earnest Oz – particularly in the clips that showcase his celebrity dancing moves. Scott keeps Stifler firmly the R-rated version of Matthew McConaughey’s Dazed and confused character [substituting vulgarities for that character’s pontificating on what he likes about high school girls], but then allowing the Stifmeister a few disturbingly funny moments of something approaching maturity.

Jim and Michelle remain the heart of the franchise, though, and their journey includes some intriguing side trips – Michelle’s one ‘This one time at band camp’ moment is completely unexpected, and Jim’s first morning after the night before moment takes the current R-rated comedy love of frontal nudity in a slightly different direction.

There’s some good relationship bits to be found in the return of Heather [Mena Suvari] and Vicky [Tara Reid, actually very good for the first time in a long time] as they reunite with Oz and Finch – though, again, not quite in the expected ways.

Some of the best moments come as a result of an exchange that’s been featured in the trailers and TV spots for the film [‘Who might you be?’ ‘I’m Stifler’s mom.’ ‘Hi, I’m Jim’s dad.’]. Here it’s a case not of why?, but why not for so long. Jennifer Coolidge and Eugene Levy really get to shine in their moments onscreen.

American Reunion zips along at a slightly less frenetic pace than the average R-rated comedy. Thanks to directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg [working from their own script], there’s plenty of time to land gags and character beats. They also show a real understanding of what made the franchise work back when – and how to tweak it for now.

I went into the screening expecting a farce [not in a good way] and would up laughing as much as I laughed at Bridesmaids or 21 Jump Street. – and that’s a lot. American Reunion is that funny.

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Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures