American Reunion

April 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Movies

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: :-)

Pineapple Express

August 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Movies

So it’s been a few summers in a row now that Apatow & Co. have completely dominated the raunchy comedy genre, and they’ve had a good thing going. I have to commend Apatow again and again for getting his old guys from past failed shows like “Freaks & Geeks” and “Undeclared” work because they’re talented and their comedy style is different than the typical Hollywood canned sitcommy humor we usually get.

I’ve been very kind to the Apatow movies, while they have been criticized for being too long or the characters weren’t engaging enough, or the story wasn’t great or maybe it wasn’t all it was hyped to be–I’ve always maintained that this is fresher stuff than what you usually get out of Hollywood, and give it a chance. Enjoy it because it won’t last.

I hope to God “Pineapple Express” is not the last entry, because it would leave as sour a taste on your mouth as a roach would. I’m not saying the movie is bad, but it’s probably the weakest effort put forth so far.

From the moment I saw the trailer, I was psyched about this. This looked like our generation’s Cheech & Chong with Seth Rogen again put in the spotlight (he carried the torch well in “Knocked Up”) and James Franco finally in a role that seems like he was born to play, at least since his “Freaks & Geeks” days. The plot looked pretty hilarious, about two stoners who get caught up in a drug scandal and the cops are involved. On top of that, you’ve got the writing team of “Superbad” (including Rogen) which was one of the funniest movies of 2007.

So why do you see the “however” coming? Well, because this movie misfires on things that I thought it would completely nail perfectly. There are “talky” scenes that go nowhere, plot points that have none, and no real direction on the story or why certain people are involved (why is Rogen’s character being into talk radio significant, and why is he dating a hot teenager?). I thought these excursions would go somewhere, but they really don’t. Especially the teenage love affair (that has a rather weak payoff) because there was almost a whole movie just in that little subplot. The script becomes fairly convoluted and the director doesn’t know when to turn the camera off on a scene in which two characters sit there and try to improvise a funny line, but can’t seem to, so they’ll just repeat themselves or just do one of those “improv pauses” and hope we laugh.

The criticism of the Apatow movies being “too long” will not only be a highlighted one, but I’m really going to have to step in and say it myself: dude, a raunchy comedy shouldn’t consistently be more than 100 minutes, and even that’s pushing it. Every one of these movies just feels like there’s a 90 page script turned into 2 hour long movie because of these obviously improved scenes, and when you keep squeezing more and more minutes out of these actors, you see they have nothing left and you CONTINUE to let the camera roll? Save it for the “outrageous unrated and totally out of control” DVD, but when you pay good money to see a movie these days, we shouldn’t be squirming and waiting for the plot to develop.

Now, I criticize because I love, and I think these guys could have done better. A lot better. Are there funny scenes? Absolutely. Will you laugh your ass off at some of the hi-jinx? Of course! Have we seen this all before, and done better? Indeed we have. You will definitely laugh, you will definitely see some cool stuff in this movie. It’s worth a viewing. But it’s not without its flaws and they must be outed because now they’re all making enough money to deserve it.

I know that’s weird logic, but I think the thing is: OK, you came onto the scene, and it was fresh and funny. Now it’s getting a bit stale. Don’t get soft, push yourselves. I know they can do better than this.

I almost was hoping Paul Rudd was gonna come out of nowhere and save a scene or two, but he must be reserved for the next one. I guess they could use a break now and then.

Overall, yeah this is a stoner-action-adventure with some brilliant moments, some extreme violence, and some really funny parts. But as a whole it doesn’t really work, and that’s a shame.

My rating: :?

Family value: Let’s see…massive drug use, lot of people being killed including police officers, as well as police officers included in the drug scandal…yeah, don’t take the kids.

:[ :choler: