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3 reviews, 4 user ratings

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American Reunion
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Crass Reunion"
2 stars

Back in that long-ago era of the summer of 1999, a film came along by the name of "American Pie" and while the premise was nothing new--a quartet of high-school doofuses attempting to lose their virginities by graduation with results ranging from the wacky to the bittersweet--it tried to spice up the familiar material by utilizing an approach that combined the sweetness of the John Hughes teen-themed epics with the go-for-broke raunchiness of films like "Porky's" and its ilk (especially the ilk). In hindsight, the film is not quite the classic that some pronounced it to be at the time (you can pretty much feel the intense amount of crass commercial consideration that clearly went into virtually every scene) but the combination of a few genuinely amusing set pieces, a reasonably likable tone and a cast of fresh faces (and other body parts) made it an enormous hit in the day and it still holds up reasonably well today. Inevitably, the film was followed by a pair of theatrical sequels, of which all I can recall at the moment is that they indeed exist and that I presumably saw them, and a slew of direct-to-video continuations that arrived like clockwork for a while to demonstrate that Eugene Levy would pretty much do anything for a paycheck.

Now, after a long layoff, "American Reunion" has arrived in the hopes of reviving the franchise for fans of the original film as well as those who were mere toddlers when it first came out. As is tipped off by the title, this one centers on the now-older kids reuniting for their class reunion and in many ways, the film itself is not unlike attending such an event. At first, it is amusing enough to see the old gang back together again, struggle to remember some of the peripheral players who turn up here and there and rudely speculate on who has had the most work done on them in the ensuing years. After a while, however, things get duller and drearier as the film spends so much time trying desperately to invoke memories of long-ago hijinks that it never quite works up the energy to come up with any new hijinks that even come close to matching them. Oh, it tries to be as bold and shocking and scandalous as ever but only the most pronounced prudes in the audience will find themselves shocked and scandalized and only those with the least refined senses of humor will find themselves to be even fitfully amused by the various and increasingly tiresome goings-on.

The film opens as the old gang from the East Great Falls High Class of 1999 as they prepare to return home for their 13-year reunion. Now married and with a kid of their own, former pastry enthusiast Jim (Jason Biggs) and former flute enthusiast Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are in the middle of a sexual rut that they try (and fail) to relieve through the miracles of bathtub massagers and surprisingly non-graphic Internet porn. Former wannabe stud Kevin (Thomas Ian Nichols) is now a happily married househusband who still finds himself pining for first love Vicky (Tara Reid). Goofy jock Oz (Chris Klein) is now a popular sports anchor (and former celebrity dance show contestant) with a hot model girlfriend (Katrina Bowden) who still finds himself pining for first love Heather (Mena Suvari), who is now engaged to a seemingly perfect doctor who, in strict accordance with the genre, is nevertheless a jumbo-sized jerk. The mysterious and ethereal Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) drifts into town with vague stories of his mad globe-trotting adventures who still finds himself pining for his first love, the original MILF known as Stifler's Mom (Jennifer Coolidge). As for the relentless hedonist Stifler (Seann William Scott), he spends his nights screwing around as usual while eking out a mediocre living as a low-level temp. On the periphery of the proceedings, there is Kara (Ali Cobren, supplying the vast majority of the film's nudity), the neighbor girl that Jim used to babysit many years ago who has just turned 18 and who wants him for her present, Selena (Dania Ramirez), another former classmate who has happily turned hot since high school and who sets her sights on Finch and, of course, Jim's dad (Eugene Levy), a man who genuine love for his son and unrelenting earnestness can't help but take a potentially discomfiting moment and make it absolutely excruciating.

No doubt loathe to mess with the formula that made the franchise so popular in the first place--gross-out gags for the guys couple with sweeter and more sensitive stuff for the ladies--co-directors Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg (the creators of the "Harold & Kumar" franchise) have chosen to stick with the tried and true instead of branching off into different directions and that is a good deal of the reason why the film doesn't really work. For example, instead of acknowledging the fact that the characters are older and different people than they were before, each one gets a moment or two to mention the changes in their lives before reverting into the same people that they had once been. (It might have been interesting if the film had been about that reversion but it is less that than it is just a lot of lazy screenwriting and character development.) As for the various wacky or heart-rending situations that they get into, they fail to generate much interest as well--the big comedic set-pieces are too contrived to be believed (I can buy a couple trying to sneak off in the middle of a crowded party for a quickie but I don't quite believe that they would bring along elaborate bondage gear to change into for the assignation), the more emotional stuff is equally lame and unconvincing. (Honestly--do you suppose that even the most dedicated fans of the series actually care as to whether Oz and Heather will dump their respective significant others and get back together?) and the gross-out jokes (involving oral sex, soiled socks and defecating into a beer cooler) shriek of desperation. Frankly, the closest thing to comedic invention comes from the various humiliations thrown Chris Klein's way, presumably as revenge for having the temerity to skip out on "American Wedding." Throw in a somnambulistic pace and a storyline that doesn't really build towards much of anything resembling a climax and the end result is a film that feels as if it was made only to serve as a big screen commercial designed to promote the Blu-Ray releases of the previous films.

As has been the case with all the "American Pie" films, the funniest moments come courtesy of the legendary Eugene Levy as Jim's Dad. Admittedly, the guy's sense of quality control has not exactly been firing on all cylinders in recent years and much of the material that he has been given here is of a hackiness that even Bobby Bittman might find questionable. However, he is nothing if not a pro and somehow manages to work wonders by wrenching genuine laughs out of the substandard script. His scenes with Jason Biggs, usually involving some incredibly mortifying subject, are still little gems that are the only time that the film is truly successful at blending silliness and sentiment without teetering too far to one extreme. He also gets a couple of scenes with Jennifer Coolidge (his co-star in many a Christopher Guest joint) that inspire a few laughs as well and he even gets to indulge in a bit of nifty physical comedy during a final scene in a movie theater on a date. Yes, it involves him getting a happy ending, which is ore than one can say for anyone sitting in the audience for "American Reunion."

AUTHOR'S NOTE #1: For those of you worried that the upcoming documentary "Bully" might encourage new and more enlightened attitudes towards such things as bullying and homophobia, you will be relieved to know that "American Reunion" is chock-full of moments that seem to endorse both and that they will most likely be seen by more young viewers in its opening weekend alone than "Bully" will be in its entire run. AUTHOR'S NOTE #2: If you are like me and largely driven to see "American Reunion" for another chance to ogle Shannon Elizabeth on the big screen, you will be disappointed to discover that she a.) doesn't show up until the very end and b.) only appears for approximately 13 seconds. Hell, I think she appears on the poster longer than she does in the film and she doesn't even appear on the poster!

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=22454&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/05/12 22:25:51
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User Comments

12/28/17 morris campbell still delivers the laughs 4 stars
3/06/13 Kurt Better than I expected. 4 stars
5/16/12 Geraldine More stale than the previous movies but Eugene Levy provided some genuine laughs. 3 stars
4/06/12 Dan A.P. has a special place in my 30 y/o heart. Reunion is best yet. It's true to life. 5 stars
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  06-Apr-2012 (R)
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