Friday, July 19, 2013

American Reunion

Directed by Jon Hurwitz.
2012. Unrated Version, 114 minutes.
Jason Biggs
Alyson Hannigan
Eugene Levy
Chris Klein
Thomas Ian Nicholas
Eddie Kaye Thomas
Ali Cobrin
Mena Suvari
Tara Reid
Jennifer Coolidge
Natasha Lyonne
Katrina Bowden
Shannon Elizabeth

After two less successful sequels, and way too many straight-to-DVD spin-offs, the gang from the original American Pie is back. Steeped in raunch, fueled by a handful of classic scenes, and coining a term that’s spawned thousands of websites I don’t want my kids knowing about, that film instantly took its place in the pantheon of teen sex romps. This time, it seems the entire school missed their ten-year high school reunion and are getting together for their thirteenth.

Jim (Biggs) and Michelle (Hannigan) are still married and have a little baby boy, but no sex life. Oz (Klein) is a TV host on a sports show and has a free spirited model for a girlfriend. Kevin (Nicholas) is married to someone we don’t know and the movie doesn’t really care about except for the fact that she doesn’t make the trip. Finch (Thomas) is a globe-trotting adventurer who makes his way back to town for the special event. Stifler (Scott) is still Stifler and still living with his mom (Coolidge).

Among the various subplots that spring up, the most prominent involves Jim’s former next door neighbor Kara (Cobrin), whom he used to babysit. She’s turning eighteen this weekend and has the hots for him. You can decide for yourself whether she’s important to the movie because she actually poses a real threat to Jim’s marriage or because she spends a considerable amount of screen-time topless. That’s followed closely by Jim’s dad (Levy) trying to get back into the dating game now that his wife has passed. As for the other guys, old flames show up: Heather (Suvari) for Oz and Vicky (Reid) for Kevin. In all cases, things play out just as expected.

In a nutshell, that things proceed with so little in the way of surprises is this movie’s biggest problem. There’s nothing we don’t see coming, including ninety percent of the gags. A good portion of them are rehashes from the original, or recaps to make sure we remember what happened in that first movie. For instance, we’re shown Jim’s famous video taping scene several times. With so many telegraphed blows thrown, it’s no wonder our funny bone manages to dodge a high volume of them.

Occasionally, there are laughs. Most of them are due to Eugene Levy and that lovable awkwardness he always brings. For me, he is by far the funniest person in the whole series. It seems the movie itself, and really the entire franchise, wants it to be Stifler. I usually put him behind Jim, but I’ll give him second this time. He does give us the one truly unpredictable scene we have. It involves revenge on some young punks and not even his buddies know what he’s up to. Throughout the movie, he behaves so outlandishly as to scarcely seem human, but this forces to laugh on a couple of occasions.

The final act plays out somewhat strangely. I feel I have to reiterate that this has nothing to do with where all the narrative strands end up which is precisely where we thought they would. Nor does it have anything to do with the film using this time to give a cameo to seemingly every person who had a part in the original. That’s also to be expected. In fact, we wonder why they’re all back-logged like they are. What’s odd is it’s handling of these people. A number of them walk onto the screen and immediately announce their sexuality. They stroll over to one of our main characters who recognizes them and asks how they’ve been. They then respond with something like “I’ve been good and, oh, I’m gay now.” Who does this? Let’s forget about the fact that none of these people were gay before and concentrate on how they present themselves. Is the movie trying to be politically correct, or is it making some grand statement in support of gay right? Or, is it making fun of homosexuals? Either of the first two would be preferable to what it feels like which is the latter. If that’s the case, the movie even does a poor job of this. It seems to point a finger at them and laugh simply because they are gay and without having them do anything that could possibly make us laugh. The one possible exception being how uncomfortable Stifler’s Lacrosse buddies make him. Other times it comes across as if it’s a punch-line, but without the rest of the joke. As evidence, whenever a character makes their declaration there’s a pause in the dialogue like a public speaker might employ when they expect applause or laughter. This inspires neither.

Then there’s the even more bizarre reunion of John Cho’s character and his buddy from the first movie. It is their exchange from that original that gave us the term MILF. Here, when the two see each other, they repeat only that word to one another what feels like dozens of times during a tearful embrace. Again, what’s the joke? Are we merely supposed to crack up because they say this word? Or, is it because, as is heavily implied, they’re getting back together after breaking up their homosexual relationship? Or, is it simply the franchise patting itself on the back for birthing, or at least naming a subgenre of porn. Maybe it’s all of those things. I dunno. In any event, it isn’t funny.

The bottom line is that American Reunion is a middling comedy, at best, that doesn’t always let us in on the jokes. The ones they do aren't always funny. Occasionally, they are but not nearly enough to call this a good movie. Much like Stifler, it’s desperately clinging to its glorious past and fails to really recognize the changing of times, therefore stunting its own growth.

MY SCORE: 5/10

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