Movie Review: American Reunion

(l to r) Thomas Ian Nicholas, Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Chris Klein, Eddie Kaye Thomas

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

Sometimes the first slice of pie is the best slice of pie. Sure, you can go back for a second, a third or, if you’re a glutton for punishment, even a fourth. But that first bite, that toothsome delight of sensory surprise, has given way to a gooey paste that just may end up sticking in your throat.

It seems those American Pie-makers lost the recipe somewhere between 1999 and 2012. While they might hope that the ever-hungry audience equates more pie with better pie (perhaps attempting to draw the iffy parallel that more sex equals better sex), they haven’t yet accepted the fact that the feast is over. Like the last remnant on the dessert tray, the one stale piece that is American Reunion insists on force-feeding itself to someone. Anyone.

Comparing apples to, well, apple pies, the plot of this fourth installment is remarkably unremarkable. Over a decade after their coming-of-sexual-age prom night, we are reintroduced to the quartet: Two of them have settled into comfortable domesticity (Jason Biggs’ Jim, Thomas Ian Nicholas’ Kevin); one is far more successful at his snazzy sportscaster job than finding the right partner (Chris Klein’s Oz); and the odd duck (Eddie Kaye Thomas’ Finch) may have globetrotted a bit, but he’s still the odd duck. They soon gather in the small town of East Great Falls for their thirteenth high school reunion. (There was a tossed-aside mumble about failing to gather for the tenth; let’s just assume it was about the difficulty in finding filmmakers willing to flog this project into the ground.) As always, the guys try to ignore the obnoxious Seann William Scott’s Stifler – and, as always, Stifler will not be denied.

Echoing the weakness of the story, Jason Biggs doesn’t generate enough wattage to carry the film. While Biggs previously delivered an awkward charm, coupled with extremely funny dance moves as a onetime virginal eager-beaver, we had hoped to see new, figurative wrinkles from him as an adult. Unfortunately, the filmmakers (Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, teaming up as both writers and directors) don’t do him any favors. When a panting, 18-year-old girl chases him throughout the film, begging him to “Be my first,” Jim isn’t allowed the requisite backbone to protect his marriage. Instead, he tenuously tiptoes around the issue, never quite refusing, never quite acquiescing. It’s only in the third act that he finally stands up, but only when he’s cornered. This weak behavior may not seem as problematic in, say, a mature character study, a complex drama or any film by Woody Allen … but as our hero in this supposedly sweet-natured sex comedy, Jim’s diluted ambivalence can’t help but alienate him from the audience.

Speaking of diluted, while an inevitable sag from aging is expected, it’s not so much in the cast’s appearance – they all look good – as in their talent. Sadly, the ensemble’s initially fresh spirit hasn’t been replaced by well-honed maturity. They must have lost the memo: American Reunion is not a reboot. It’s a sequel.

(l to r) Eugene Levy, Jason Biggs in "American Reunion"

That said, two actors do manage to bring something new to this tired table. The excellent Eugene Levy as Jim’s Dad, the well-meaning, clueless patriarch who brought so much heart to the initial film, is back to dispense even more fumbling advice. In the scenes with his son, Levy again succeeds in bringing out the best in Biggs. And in a few rare, quiet moments, in which Levy reveals his character’s grief over his wife who passed three years prior, we are jolted into realizing how good this movie might have been.

Additionally, even while saddled with the film’s most vulgar sequences, Seann William Scott delivers some deliciously comic moments, as well as investing Stifler with some flashes of individual character. Even so, a plot point in which Stifler’s high-powered boss calls him in over the weekend to work on a project, unsupervised (even though Stifler is a low-level temp), makes no sense whatsoever.

Dull, uninventive, sexist and unnecessarily, graphically scatological, targeted solely at teenage boys, the filmmakers missed a great opportunity to appeal to the huge fan base who still speak in glowing terms about 1999′s American Pie. Talk about wasting food …

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Rating on a scale of 5 half-chewed pie crusts: 2

Release date: April 6, 2012
Written and Directed by: Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg
Based on Characters Created by: Adam Herz
Cast: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy
Rating: R
Running Time: 113 minutes

About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 450+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/kimberly-gadette/). Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.

Comments

  1. John Booth says:

    A fascinating review of a film I may well go and see (because all men are a little bit teenage boy, even at 59).
    Tells me everything I want to know and goes out of its way to list the good and bad.

  2. Thanks for the great review, Kimberly! I had a feeling this was a pass (the trailers practically ooze “going to the money well once too often), and you helped cement that. I think I shall be saving my $$ this weekend.

    Ps: please tell me you’re going to be reviewing The Avengers next month. :)

    • And thank you, Rick, for reading and taking the time to post. Yes, I’ll be reviewing The Avengers during the first week of May. It’s the opening salvo of the [earlier and earlier] season of the Summer Blockbuster. Let’s hope it’s going to be super-hero super!

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