The fourth cinematic installment of the America Pie series (add to it 4 DTV films which brings the total to 8 ) American Reunion gets back to where it all started. Most of the kids from East Great Falls High have moved on and with the upcoming 10 year reunion (really it’s 13) they see how their lives come full circle. Jim, Oz, Kev and Paul have done pretty OK for themselves, though in Stifler’s case it seems all he’s done is spun in place. Containing the same level of raunchy humor that made the first movie a hit, the gang is now back for a forth helping of Pie and it’s anything but humble…or tactful. Yet there’s an air of maturity that was missing from the previous films. Maybe that’s a sign that these guys have really grown up.
It’s good to see the cast back reaching their character’s next personal/natural milestone. First was graduating high school, then college, then marriage and now a reunion. What’s striking about the American Pie characters is that they pretty much are about how you remember them (except for old Henry Rowengatner who’s sporting a full-on man beard). That works because it helps you relate to them and in some way we, provided you were in high school when the first movie came out, have sort of grown with them. Also they, as actors, really haven’t gone on to anything big so coming back this time no one has a huge ego or has moved past what are really their most famous roles.
But that’s about that’s about as far as it can be taken. As this story is based around a “reunion”, probably the most fulfilling thing is just seeing everyone one more time. In a world where social media is so present in our lives, it kind of questions the relevance/necessity of a reunion. These friends have already kept up with each other but even if you weren’t the best of friends in school you could still probably find all you want to know about someone with a few clicks of a mouse. Plus if things haven’t changed all that much in a decade, a trip down memory lane probably isn’t worth the price of an airline ticket and hotel room.
In American Reunion we find the guys struggling with real world quarter-life issues and it attempts to make us relate to them a little better. For the most part it works even if things are stereotyped. How the cast has dealt with professional careers and adulthood sets the stage for this homecoming story from writer/director duo Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. Sounds good but all it means is that it’s the potty-humor and audacious situations are now played out by late 20/30-somethings who really all look and feel out of place. The movie is an exercise in conveniences; both of which are necessary to make the telegraphed jokes pay off and move the story along, which is surprisingly long. From Oz and his wacked out model girlfriend to Jim’s dad, everyone gets their own story. That makes 5 1/2 to 6 plot devices Hurwitz and Schlossberg have to resolve by the time the credits roll.
Hurwitz and Schlossberg really have an answer for everything, like why are they celebrating a 10 year reunion after 13 years? Answer: something about the committee being lazy. That’s not far-fetched but the movie is nothing but one convenience after another. Sure you’re supposed to suspend some disbelief but this just gets so contrived and processed that it doesn’t have a natural or spontaneous feel to it. Like that expression, “there’s nothing worse than an aging hipster“, American Reunion, at times, is kind of sad. But I guess that’s what it’s like going back to an actual reunion. Or better, would you want to see the state championship football team suit up and play 13 years after graduating? Probably not as it’s doubtful anyone would be in top shape. Same goes for Jim & co. He’s had more genital humiliation than seems necessary or believable and further physical degradation seems inevitable. Poor Jim? No poor audience for experiencing it with him, yet again.
Buuut while it may sound pretty harsh, there is some well crafted humor peppered throughout the almost 2 hour run-time (115 mins to be exact). It, at times, seems laborious since everyone has to have their own little story that’s autonomous from the main plot. The jokes aren’t made to last that long and the plot is kind of insipid. For instance Jim’s issue with the girl he used to baby sit for (who now is having an 18th birthday party and says she had a huge crush on him…see, convenient!) leads to drunken hijinx and a made-to appeal to tweens shamless way of getting her back home. Thankfully Seann William Scott and Eugene Levy, while playing parts that are just above supporting roles, swoop in to save us from boredom. They really deserve to be the stars this time around. It’s their humor which make many of the jokes work and they bring out the guffaws. Jim gets more pitiful laughs as it seems fate works against him and inserts him in awkward situation after awkward (sometimes painful) situation. There’s nothing really funny about Kev, Oz or Finch’s characters or stories so it’s up to Stifler and Jim’s dad to bring home the humor and they, thankfully do so in spades…oh, do yourself a favor, stay for the credits.
As the series flailed, and the DTV titles didn’t help anything, American Reunion shows us the natural as well as awkward progression of these characters. Really, they are likable and this return to the well looks to fittingly close the book on the class of East Great Falls High. This time they seem to have worked all their kinks out. There’s a little more heart this time as this is not just about best friends getting back to their roots, this is also the story of a boy and his father and how the boy finally becomes a man (uncomfortable conversations/situations not withstanding). Some really solid laughs punctuate the the monotony and Hurwitz and Schlossberg poured everything they could into characters they really care about. Whether or not you got closure, hopefully this means we won’t need a second American Reunion. To give credit where it’s due, it’s American Reunion isn’t a bad time at the cinema, but it’s just not a good movie.