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!].
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