Movie Reviews: ‘American Reunion’
NB: If you’re one of our Australian readers it’s called ‘American Pie: Reunion’. Same film different poster art (although, strangely, the title card of the film is ‘American Reunion’).
Cast: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Sean William Scott, Chris Klein, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Thomas Ian Nichols, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari, Kristina Bowden, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, John Cho
Plot: Thirteen years after they graduated from high school the five friends return to their home town for a school reunion.
Review: When this return to the crass smash hit from a decade earlier was announced it seemed like an act of desperation for some of the cast members whose careers have not been as stellar as they could have been (something we wrote about in detail – click here to read the sadness). That’s not to say that it doesn’t have potential – the principle cast members had great chemistry even during the series low-points and the gross out college humour was well melded with the heartfelt themes of friendship and romance. Revisiting these characters at a different point in their lives is not only interesting but a potential mine of comedy gold.
Sadly the potential for a worthy successor to a fine comedy series is squandered. Swapping out usual writer Adam Herz for the frontrunners of the crummy Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantamamo Bay has taken the heart out of the series, leaving nothing but gratuitous nudity and jokes revolving around poop.
The previous films saw the characters working towards an established goal – losing their virginity, throwing the biggest party of the summer and giving Michelle the perfect wedding. In this outing the characters are heading to their reunion, but they’re not actively involved in the reunion nor is there any conflict surrounding the event. Instead each of the five boys have their own arc that isn’t explored in depth, convincing or actually going anywhere.
Jim and Michelle have a two year old son and find that their sex life has dwindled. When trying to re-invigorate (half-heartedly it seems) their drive Jim is hit on by the hot 18 year old next door. He doesn’t show any interest in her at all, so there’s no conflict or suspense to any of these scenes. Kevin is concerned (Tempted? Threatened? His acting doesn’t make it clear) that meeting with Vicki again may cause him to cheat on his wife. Neither Nichols or Reid do anything other than blandly read their lines, so it’s hard to tell what either of their motivations are but it doesn’t go anywhere. Stifler needs to learn to act like an adult, not get freaked out by gays and treat women as people – which is odd because we’re pretty sure he did those things in the last film.
Oz has become a celebrity sports reporter who doesn’t like his girlfriend for reasons that are unclear. It’s clear from the start that she’s slutty and untrustworthy, and their relationship is superficial at best, so it’s no surprise that it doesn’t work out. His arc concerns being reunited with Heather and an extensive story that happened off screen. It turns out that they had a bad break-up and still harbour feelings but since this happened COMPLETELY off screen during between the previous movies nobody could give a damn. Finch has a generic relationship with a girl that also has no conflict. They meet, they hit it off, they get to know each other and continue to date. Yawn.
So the movie is lacking the engaging story of the previous films (or most films) but if it’s still funny then it could still be worth the running time. There are plenty of funny moments to be found here, but again the problem lies in the script. The most memorable scenes from the previous movies were the cringe-worthy and hilarious situations the boys (Jim especially) find themselves in. They attempt similar scenes in this film but the set-ups are so illogical and stretched that they fall flat.
One particular set-up involves them trying to sneak a drunk and naked teenaged girl into her bedroom without the parents or their wives finding out, but the characters get to that point in such a stupid manner that it’s hard to shut off the logic centre of the brain and enjoy the jokes. Since the scenario began with Jim driving the girl home because she was drunk, why couldn’t he just drive her home and explain to her parents (who used to hire him as a babysitter) that she was too drunk to get home herself on her birthday? Things get awkward when she throws her clothes out the car window, but he doesn’t think to stop and find them. Or ask his wife, who is in the house next door, for some clothes. Or even just give her his second shirt that he is wearing the entire time. Although they keep getting at Stifler for not acting like an adult there’s no point in this scene that any of them have mental processes above the age of seven.
The movie as a whole has a very strange attitude towards women (and this bit contains spoilers, like anyone cares). All the female characters fade into the background pretty quickly and while the series has always been about the boys they’ve often been portrayed as a pack of dunderheads while the girls were much more level headed. This time around the entire gender has been turned into a pack of immoral harpies. Michelle is trying to control Jim’s life (to the point that she breaks out a dominatrix outfit and whip towards the end) and as her point of view is never given we don’t see it from any other perspective from Jim’s. Vicki exists only to wreck Kevin’s marriage, while his wife has emasculated him by forcing him to work at home and watch reality TV. Oz’s girlfriend is a shallow, sex crazed cheat. Jim’s potential new love interest doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘no’. Even Heather, described in the film as being conservative and wholesome, manages to cheat on her boyfriend right in front of him.
Even if all the characters were as well developed as they had been in the past, and the women acted like people instead of evil vaginas on legs, the chance to develop comedy from the new scenarios – being married and holding careers – is also completely squandered. While Jim and Michelle often talk about their marriage and being parents they sure don’t show it. Jim is very rarely in the same room as his son and barely acknowledges him when he is. The film opens with Jim asking Michelle if the boy is asleep even though he is sitting next to them and would only need to turn his head and look at the lad to find out for himself, but instead he has a blind spot for his kin. Michelle is strangely absent from his weekend. While it’s a theme that their marriage is running a bit cold they barely spent two minutes together at a time, although this is supposedly her high school reunion as well as his.
This is getting into the realm of nitpicking, but it is a very frustrating film. Viewers may find themselves getting annoyed with the characters because they just want them to stop acting like a bunch of assholes and do something funny or interesting. There are some fondly remembered, familiar characters being given no material, and new situations to base comedy around that don’t get explored.
Oh, and there are cameos from some of the supporting cast such as Shannon Elizabeth and Natasha Lyonne, but each is as pointless and unfunny as the last.
If you get nostalgic about the series, go back and watch the original. This movie gets a worse score for squandering the easy set-up.
Score: TWO outta TEN