If you were never a fan of the Weitz brothers' original film from 13 years ago, then there's little reason for you to consider catching American Reunion,
a more mature, settled and comfortable film that is just as raunchy, juvenile, silly, sexy and laugh out loud funny.
If you were a fan of the original film, my gut tells me that you're going to enjoy catching up with Stifler (Seann William Scott), Jim (Jason Biggs), his now wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), Oz (Chris Klein), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) along with the rest of the American Pie
gang including such favorites as Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) and Vicky (Tara Reid).
Co-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the minds behind the Harold & Kumar
films, have found a way to invigorate the series while remaining faithful the the series' history. After American Wedding
was released in 2003, the series became reduced to straight-to-video spin-offs featuring younger siblings, such as Stifler's younger brother Matt (Tad Hilgenbrink in both the spin-offs and this film). With the exception of the occasional bit appearance, only Eugene Levy has steadily appeared in even the straight-to-video projects, appearances that even has acknowledged had more to do with the fact that they threw large sums of money at him for relatively minor appearances.
How do you take a teen sex comedy and make it work 13 years later when everyone involved is in the work force, married or parents themselves?
Hurwitz and Schlossberg managed to tap into the essence of each character, remaining loyal to everything we'd come to love about them but managing to update them into a believable, more mature setting.
Jim and Michelle are the perfect example. Jim's ever fumbling sexuality is on full display once again, but this time around it's set up amidst Jim and Michelle's post-baby marital troubles. The way everything plays out is completely the Jim we know and love, but it has been updated perfectly to acknowledge that while Jim's life has changed he's still the same ole' Jim. Biggs and Hannigan have always been able to convince us that Jim and Michelle are the perfect couple, and their story line here is both extremely funny and surprisingly touching.
Stifler has always been my least favorite among the key players in the American Pie
films, with Seann William Scott portraying him as just a tad too close to sociopath for my comfort. His character has always seemed like more caricature than character, but with American Reunion
Scott gives a lower key, comfortably unsettled performance as Stifler that works nicely for the character while complementing the rest of the characters well without losing all that is uniquely Stifler.
The film's big winner, as has pretty much always been true, is Eugene Levy as Jim's Dad. This time around, Mr. Levenstein has been widowed for three years and is both working through his grief and trying to get the gumption to move on with life. Levy's dry wit is in full force, but there's an extra spark to it that practically makes you laugh every time you see him show up on the screen.
There's not much story to the film, but there really doesn't need to be. The gang has all gathered for their 13th reunion, mainly because no one in the class could get motivated enough to put together the 10th year reunion. The guys are all at different levels of success, ranging from Oz's infamous appearance on "Celebrity Dance-Off" (He lost to Gilbert Gottfried!) and sportscasting career to the "married with child" Jim and Michelle.
While certainly not every gag works, the retro 90's gags especially seem to fall flat, American Reunion
serves up enough genuinely laugh out loud moments to easily make it worth your time this opening weekend. Perhaps the wisest move made by Hurwitz and Schlossberg is to set these characters in situations that moves us from their teen years to their young adult years. Stifler, for example, gets the chance to hook up with "the mouth that got away" and ends up learning a lesson about growing up that he should have gotten in high school but never did. When Jim is tempted by Kara (Ali Corbin), a just turned 18-year-old whom he used to babysit and who know thinks he's the perfect one to take her virginity, we get both the humor of the temptation and the grown-up Jim realizing that even amidst all his marital struggles he must remain faithful.
An abundance of laughs, raunch, silliness, heart, hyped up friendship and a penis all add up to an American Reunion
that will likely please anyone who appreciated the first or second film in the series.
Now, if you'll excuse me. An apple pie is calling my name.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic