From high school to college to a wedding and now to the inevitable reunion- the AMERICAN PIE movies always had a style of humor that spoke to the time period they were conceived. Immature jokes that I feel blended well with the pretty simple moral of friends and relationships that all equaled harmless comedy and ones I really liked. The biggest question I had for AMERICAN REUNION was rather or not that style of comedy had a place so many years later after all the direct to DVD sequels watered down its brand. The good news is it’s a major step up from AMERICAN WEDDING and is consistently funny even if it is a bit stuck in its late 90’s brand of humor- although that’s mostly what endeared me series to begin with.
Jim (Jason Biggs), Oz (Chris Klein), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Stifler (Sean William Scott) all return to East Great Falls for their high school reunion with all the baggage that comes with their adult lives. Jim is still married to Michelle (Alyson Hannigan); they have a kid together and are dealing with a rut in their sex life while Jim’s dad is still struggling with the passing of his wife. Kevin is married and works from home but may still have feelings for Vicky (Tara Reid), Oz is a semi celebrity that hosts a sports show and appeared on a celebrity dance off reality show, Finch is continuing his international adventures and Stifler is a temp at a large company run by a young guy that walks all over him. Once together they try to relive the fun from high school but also struggle with the drama that follows them home the days leading up to the reunion.
The first problem right off the bat is all the ham fisted cameos by just about every minor character from the previous films. Vicky’s friend from high school, the Sherminator and Nadia being the worst of the bunch as each of them show up for a total of maybe 3 minutes if you added their screen time together. I always liked Kevin’s character and he has some decent moments in the film but his entire plotline with Vicky in this one felt tacked on and if not for some decent moments provided by Kevin it would have been much worse.
The film always had a goofy sense of humor with all of Jim’s predicaments and other over-the-top gross out gags and AMERICAN REUNION provides all of that but turns them up significantly with penis shots, lots of nudity, masturbation, poop gags and more. There was always the TERMINATOR jokes for Sherman’s character highlighted by the theme from Cameron’s film but this time it even cuts to the Terminator’s infra red vision and targets a character for Shermination which if am remembering correctly takes that joke further than in either of the first two films.
The strength of the film for me has always been the friendship between the main group and the way they joke with each other but are also there to bail each other out. That is also very prevalent here but as with the previous films when it all wraps itself up at the end it’s all a bit too neat and tidy and even a little rushed. The trouble the characters get into never really seems to go as far logically as it would given the things they are caught doing, so you never get a sense that any character will fail at digging themselves out of their predicament.
Biggs, Nicholas, Thomas all play their characters the same as they ever did although Biggs has always been my favorite and I still liked him quite a bit here as he transitions from bumbling sex obsessed geek to a bumbling sex obsessed geek who is also a family man. I like Biggs because he’s always trying to do the right thing and he’s got morals that are unwavering which make him as likeable and respectable as he is even with the scandalous situations he finds himself in. Klein, whose absence from the wedding is waived off in one line but never explained is also a nice addition in this film as his character has some very over-the-top character moments but is a lot like Jim in terms of his morals and likability. Scott’s character of Stifler, just like in AMERICAN WEDDING, has become one of the weaker aspects- not because he’s a bad character, but because he’s not written that well and Scott just seems to be forcing the offensive dialogue he’s getting and trying too hard to make him exactly as he was in the first two but missing the mark. Stifler has always been the more cartoonish of the bunch but in the last two films he is even more so and the tone of his voice just sounds higher and not as natural when compared to the first two films.
I did find the film very funny overall though due almost entirely to each individual set piece set up for the longer gags and jokes. Jim finds himself in a variety of tough situations as usual and each of them are very funny, one of which transpires at one of Stifler’s famous parties that consequently has also changed with the years. The main cast are put into the middle of the uncomfortable spots and have to work themselves out not unlike the extended scene in AMERICAN PIE 2 when Stifler, Jim and Finch find themselves in a kinky back and forth with two girls Stifler assumes are lesbians. One of the central gags here involve the group working together to sneak a drunk and topless young teen back into her parents house and get back out without being caught.
AMERICAN REUNION may not be as well rounded as most R rated comedies in a post Apatow world but it is still a welcome return to the series- more so than AMERICAN WEDDING was in its day. The comedy is definitely a bit dated but if you are like me and still look back fondly at those days then you will still get a kick out it. The film suffers a bit from the half hearted wrap up at the end that feels a bit too much like an after school special. The gross out gags and chaotic nature of the comedic set pieces are all laugh out loud hilarious and constant enough to make the film a fun night out and a charming bit of nostalgia for those that flocked out to the theaters back when the first AMERICAN PIE movies were in their heyday.