American Reunion

Americanreunion

Movie review by Greg Carlson

The latest if not the last entry in the teensploitation franchise known for its ribald antics and carnal humiliations, “American Reunion” is the fourth theatrically released movie in the series and the eighth overall. Missing the tenth anniversary by a couple years, the script clumsily but self-mockingly explains away the unlikelihood of a thirteenth class reunion with some expository dialogue as protagonist Jim (Jason Biggs) meets up with his core group of friends to relive the memories of 1999 and presumably generate a few new ones. Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, of “Harold & Kumar” fame, assume screenplay and directorial duties, but never quite capture the – dare we say, nuances – of Paul and Chris Weitz’s filmmaking and Adam Herz’s writing.

For admirers of the original film willing to overlook almost everything in the terrible sequels, “American Reunion” tries with no small amount of desperation to capitalize on the seemingly incongruous blend of familial warmth and penis jokes popularized though not originated in Judd Apatow’s movies. Both Apatow and the “American Pie” films owe a debt to John Hughes, not to mention “American Graffiti,” “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” and “Dazed and Confused.” The original film’s male-centered quest to dispense with virginity aligns “American Pie” with a long list of sex-as-rite-of-passage tales, including “Porky’s,” “The Last American Virgin,” and the lesser known “Hot Moves.”

Every principal member of the original cast returns, although Natasha Lyonne’s Jessica appears in a fleeting cameo. Only the most devoted fans would remember that of Jim’s best friends, Chris Klein’s Oz did not attend “American Wedding,” and neither did Lyonne, Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, or Shannon Elizabeth. Several minor characters, including John/MILF Guy #2 (John Cho) and Chuck “The Sherminator” Sherman (Chris Owen) are also on hand. We learn that Jim’s mother has died, but her passing seems to have been written essentially to facilitate a boozy encounter between Noah (Eugene Levy) and Stifler’s mom (Jennifer Coolidge).

The lustful chain of outrageous calamities bedeviling Jim over the years (pastry masturbation, superglue mistaken for lubricant, shaved pubic hair vented directly to wedding cake) forges a new link in neighbor Kara (Ali Cobrin), the girl-next-door that Jim used to babysit. Now eighteen and eager to lose her own virginity, Kara targets our married hero, straining his imagination as well as his fidelity to Michelle (Alyson Hannigan). Naturally, Jim’s understanding father is on hand to awkwardly share advice with his son, and even though we’ve been there so many times before, the nicely timed scenes between Biggs and Levy are among the movie’s high points.

On several occasions, “American Reunion” acknowledges the difficulties of growing up and moving on, from Jim and Michelle’s transition into parenthood to Stifler’s (Seann William Scott) angry realization that high school may have been the best time of his life. At the expense of other more promising stories, “Reunion” spends altogether too much energy on the boorish Stifler, the perpetual fifth wheel who emerged from secondary status to huge popularity, ala Arthur Fonzarelli. Scott’s character is much better in small doses, and even though a surprising turnabout reverses his previous failures, some small pleasure is derived watching “the Stif-meister” labor fruitlessly to reconstruct his former glories.

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