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American Reunion Review

American Pie came along in 1999 and took the nation by storm with its overt – and relatively realistic – depiction of teenage sexuality. Never before had a mainstream film fully delved into such territory, so it’s no surprise that we’ve been treated to several sequels over the years, including some direct-to-DVD movies we’d rather not discuss. The fourth film in the canon, American Reunion, hopes to capture that youthful essence. It’s been almost 10 years since we last visited East Great Falls’ Class of 1999. In American Wedding we see prom-night lovers (American Pie) and eventual sweethearts (American Pie 2) Jim and Michelle, respectively played by Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan, finally tying the knot. As its title suggests, “Reunion” focuses on the gang's official high school reunion and the events leading up to it. Quite a few things have changed with the gang in 10 years time: Jim and Michelle have a son and little time to be intimate, Oz (Chris Klein) is a famous sportscaster, Kevin is married with a family, Stifler (Seann William Scott) has a temp job—albeit one at a very prominent financial company—and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), well, no one knows where he is. Jim, Oz and Kevin agree to meet up a few days before the reunion. Finch shows up with the gang despite being left out of the loop and Stifler arrives even though he was deliberately uninvited. Since we’ve reunited the principle cast of the first film and have those great characters back, it’s time for the fun to begin, right? Well, not exactly. The actors do an admirable job revitalizing these characters, but the outcomes are predictable and the dialogue mostly bland. The big problem here isn’t the overload of nostalgia or the actual humor; the hurdle “Reunion” fails to jump is the failure to adequately balance its dramatic and comedic tones. The script also fails to capitalize on the nostalgia, despite there being tons of it. As one might expect, “Reunion” has some relatively fun throwbacks to previous installments. For anyone familiar with the series, band camp, flutes, pies and live webcams all pop in the film’s many conversations at one point or another. Oh, and just as a heads up for anyone who might be offended (or curious), this R-rated comedy flaunts even more visible full-frontal male nudity than last year’s NC-17 drama Shame. Go figure. Of course American Reunion is more than just reminiscing. Jim, Oz, and Kevin are caught up in love triangle-like situations: Kevin with his old flame Vicky (Tara Reid) and his wife, Oz with his old flame Heather (Mena Suvari) and his model girlfriend, and Jim with Michelle and a girl he used to babyist (the more comic of the three). Elsewhere, Finch begins a romance with one of his former classmates and Stifler is Stifler, always chasing frivolous and meaningless sexual encounters. Scott is still hamming it up enjoyably as Stifler and Hannigan continues to effortlessly balance goofy naïveté with a surprisingly intuitive intelligence. Eugene Levy and Jennifer Coolidge as Jim's dad and Stifler's mom flex their comedic muscles even more, though in an obviously less subtle manner than their Christopher Guest collaborations. Most noteworthy of the newcomers is Katrina Bowden, who puts quite a bit into her small, arguably thankless role as Oz’s hot model girlfriend. Her comedic timing is absolutely perfect and creates a wonderfully off-kilter and purposeful lack of chemistry with other cast members. Again, those familiar with these characters will get a huge kick out of moments that’ll leave others puzzled, but unfortunately, nostalgia – however delightful and fun it might be – doesn’t compensate for flimsy writing and an ensemble lacking in ambition. As I touched on earlier, it’s always fun to return to characters you’ve come to know over time. Like most successful reunion special or delayed sequels, the film is similar to reuniting with a friend you haven’t seen in years. However, “Reunion” resembles an awkward run-in with someone you used to know as opposed to a genuinely friendly one. You say your hellos, ask how the person is doing and then bid him/her an odd farewell. If you grew up on American Pie, you'll enjoy this last serving, but those looking for a first taste should simply stick with the original.


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