American Reunion

April 9, 2012 by  

I was two years graduated from high school by the time “American Pie” was released so unfortunately for me,  I have no definitive high school comedy to relate to. I was just a toddler when “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” came out, just an elementary student during “License to Drive” and the John Hughes comedies of the 80’s. We had “Dazed and Confused” come out while I was in high school, but that took place in the 70’s. I hope I don’t have to consider “Kids” our definitive high school movie. After I graduated, there was “Can’t Hardly Wait”, “She’s All That”, and of course, “American Pie”.

I was 20 when I saw it, so I wasn’t too far removed from the atmosphere of high school. I thoroughly enjoyed the first film, and recall laughing hysterically like a little kid while my date sat somewhat bemused. Luckily that relationship didn’t last all that long. The thing that impressed me the most, though, about “America Pie” was its heart. While there were explicit vulgar and raunchy things that happened that were surely inspired by comedies like “Stripes” and “Animal House”, the outrageousness was balanced by a sincerity that made it cute as well as laugh out loud funny. Of course the great stabilizer in that film was Eugene Levy, who played the main character Jim’s dad. Jim himself, played like a young impressionable Woody Allen-esque nebbish by Jason Biggs (who did wind up in a Woody Allen film years later), was also endearing. You rooted for him to succeed and you cringed when he did the unthinkable.

The other characters were fun, too, like the intellectual Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), and the shy but crazy-in-bed band girl Michelle (Alyson Hannigan). Kevin (Thomas Ian Nichols) and Oz (Chris Klein) were somewhat boring but the one character that made all the difference was Stifler (Sean William Scott). The echoes of high school dread, over indulgent partying, and general taking everything for granted, were well displayed in “American Pie” and the whole movie worked on the whole.

The sequels were amiable–mainly because the characters remained vital parts of the story. “American Pie 2” followed the kids into college, and “American Wedding” saw Jim and Michelle get married. It all told a very simple but affectionate story of growing up while still making you bust a gut laughing at the twisted shenanigans that ensued. I’m not going to even mention the STV off-shoots because…well…do I really need a reason?

Now the story comes full circle with “American Reunion”, a film that once again retains the most important things that made the original so endearing–the characters, and the sweetness coupled with the hijinx. There’s still that same balance which I credit the writer/director team of Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg who are responsible for the “Harold and Kumar” franchise.

The plot is simple: the gang is going to get together for their high school reunion (delayed a few years). Old flames return, like Kevin’s first girlfriend (Tara Reid) and Oz’s (Mena Suvari). Jim and Michelle are still married and now have a 2 year old son. But they have some problems in the bedroom that lead to some predictable but still amusing scenes. They return to Jim’s old home where his dad still lives, even though it’s a true empty nest as we learn his wife and Jim’s mother died years ago. The gang gets together, hoping that Stifler doesn’t find out.

He doesn’t; but he catches them in a bar, and is hurt that they don’t want to include him. Since the last time they were together, Stifler now works as a temp for a big firm (I guess the high school coach thing didn’t work out), but he hasn’t changed at all. Still wanting to drink until he passes out, and get as many women in bed with him as he can, the gang’s worried he will spoil their weekend which they wanted somewhat quiet.

Jim’s problems arise also from a neighbor that he used to babysit, Kara (Ali Cobrin), has now grown into an 18 year old bombshell and has always had a crush on him. She wants him to come to her 18th birthday party, and Jim of course is tempted. Meanwhile, Kevin has his own temptations with seeing Vicky (Reid) again; and Oz’s feelings for Heather (Suvari) have returned as well. Vicky is single and Heather has a boyfriend (Jay Harrington) but of course…she’s not too happy in the relationship. Oz isn’t either, even though he has an ESPN-like sports show and a hot model girlfriend (Katrina Bowden).

The set up is lined up like bowling pins about to be knocked down by Dick Weber; but if you enjoyed watching these characters through the first three films, you’ll enjoy them here, too. They don’t stray too far from their original molds, so you know what to expect. Except really from Oz, whom I always felt was a severely disappointing character. The fault lies mainly with the actor, Chris Klein, who never really seems to feel comfortable in that character. He seems better suited for typical airhead guys, but when he has to show emotion or some kind of epiphany, he just looks out to sea.

The most important character to the series is, surprisingly, Stifler. Sean William Scott has done a fabulous job with this character who at most times is just an obnoxious jerk; but there are times when you look into his eyes and you see a good guy underneath. He’s done some good things for the gang, and he retreads the same persona in this film. But he really is the essence of the series: a guy who goes through life and doesn’t want to grow up, who wants to live in the past and party all the time–but when the time comes to grow up, he does. Sean William Scott doesn’t get a lot of credit as an actor but this is a definitive role for him. The opposite of Klein, he is absolutely comfortable being Stifler. And since he’s so at ease, the rest of the story can just fall into place.

That’s really all the movie does; it’s just a dining room set with steak and potatoes. But if you’re good with that meal, this will go down easy. Let me rephrase that: it’ll taste fine.

You know what, nevermind? Just see the movie, if you’re a fan of the series. It kind of plays like nice series finale of  a long running sitcom. And let’s hope this really is good-bye. I think I’ve seen enough, as much as I enjoyed it.

My rating: :-)

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