Review: 'American Reunion' Proves the 'Pie' Series Never Changes
by Jeremy Kirk
April 6, 2012
"Hi, my name is Jim, and I humped a pie once." "Hi, my name is Stifler, and I ingest disgusting things." "Hi, my name is Finch, and I had sex with Stifler's mom." The characters in American Reunion may as well write confessions on their name tags the jokes are so tired. It's all familiar, the same grotesque peaks and raunchy valley we've seen at least three times before, and, more than ever, these jokes define the characters. There's little else to offer. It's beyond what one finds funny. Comedy is the most subjective of art forms, but when something is as paint-by-numbers as American Reunion, even surface level entertainment has to be called into question.
It's not even a believable premise. The idea is that Jim Levenstein, played by Jason Biggs, and his former band nerd wife, Michelle, played by Alyson Hannigan, are heading back to Michigan for their 13th high school reunion. That's right - a 13-year reunion, and the "they overshot it by a couple of years" line is as much thought that went into filling that plot hole. Regardless, the reunion is approaching, Jim and Michelle, who are having some typical issues in the bedroom after the birth of their son, head back to their hometown, and the gang is all there. When I say gang, I don't mean characters that we know and love from the first three American Pie films. The gang that's all here is the suitcase of old jokes everyone keeps lugging around.
Stifler, played again by the unabashedly loud Seann William Scott, is still just as arrogant and destructive as he's always been. Eddie Kaye Thomas is back as Finch, who's mysterious time after high school is a surprisingly nice fit for the character even if he's only here to provide jokes about Stifler's mom. Thomas Ian Nicholas is back as Kevin who… well, we never really know much about Kevin, but this time around he's a domesticated trophy husband who still seems to be pining over his high school sweetheart, Vicky, played by Tara Reid. Chris Klein returns after an absence from American Wedding as Oz, the host of a sports show who appeared on a fictionalized version of "Dancing with the Stars". That subplot offers some fun sight gags.
That last bit proves that there's potential for something new, something we haven't seen at least three times before - I haven't seen any of the direct-to-DVD spinoffs of the American Pie franchise, but I'm guessing they include more of the same. Unfortunately the script, penned by Harold & Kumar alums Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, never wants to trek too far from its parents. Time after time American Reunion falls back to its comfort zone, having Stifler make some wildly inappropriate and usually sexist comment or showing Jim get caught in some outlandish scenario that no one will believe isn't his fault. When that doesn't work, or, God help them, when Hurwitz and Schlossberg don't seem interested in retreading old jokes, they have someone go over the events of the first films as if we haven't seen them for ourselves.
Tie every meaningful moment, every original joke, every instance of something fresh in American Reunion together, and you might have a 30-minute movie. That's being generous, too. Much of that only works thanks to Scott and the returning Eugene Levy as Jim's Dad, now a widower who's just thankful his son's family is visiting. It's Jim's Dad who has the most innovative of story arcs. Even though much of his time is spent giving Jim awkward advice, there's something to the character, an edge we haven't seen before. A small segment where Stifler and Jim's Dad are matching each other shot-for-shot at a party is the only guffaw moment in the whole film. Even seeing Jim's Dad and Stifler's Mom hanging out and possibly finding infatuation in each other is something new, and you want more of it.
You don't get it. Too often American Reunion takes what's worked before and attempts to run it into the ground. I say "attempt", because these jokes hit that proverbial ground years ago. The American Pie series is that graduate who refuses to learn, refuses to go out into the real world and find something new to do. In a lot of ways, the whole series is like Stifler who bides his time with the attitude he knows, and, just when you think he's learned the error of his ways, he sits himself down on a cooler and relieves himself. Fans of the series might laugh at the same jokes they've been chuckling with every time they see one of these films show up on cable, but even they have to recognize how little there is added in American Reunion.
The movie can't even draw out controversy with all the obvious T'nA flying around and objectification of women going on. American Reunion is that guy at the high school reunion who still thinks they've got it, still likes to cat call and grab asses when the moment arises. The first couple of times you roll your eyes, might even say something to him to keep him from doing it again. After awhile, though, it's best just to leave him standing in the corner to do as he pleases. You aren't going to change him. It's just best to ignore him.
Jeremy's Rating: 3 out of 10