Saturday, April 7, 2012

"American Reunion" (2012)

Starring Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, and Alyson Hannigan
Written and directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg
Rated R - Language, violence, nudity, sex, drinking and drug use by teens
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Trailer (Red Band)

13 years after graduating high school, the crazed weirdos from "American Pie" return to their hometown for their high school reunion.

Jim (Jason Biggs) is now married to the band chick Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) and the two have a young child.  Unfortunately, their sex life has taken a nosedive, causing strife in their marriage.  Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is also married and an architect who works from home.  Oz (Chris Klein) is a sportscaster who recently competed on a celebrity dancing show and lives with his slutty model girlfriend Mia (Katrina Bowden).  Stifler (Seann William Scott) has a crappy job at an investment firm  where he plays at being a big-shot but is really just a gopher.  And Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has been living the life of a worldly nomad.

Having grown apart, the guys are excited to be back in town to hang out for the weekend and go to the reunion.  Jim is glad to see his dad (Eugene Levy) who is lonely after the loss of his wife several years earlier, and is also surprised to find that the girl next door who Jim used to baby sit, Cara (Ali Cobrin) is now a gorgeous 18-year-old.  The guys start hanging out and discover that their lives have taken them, in some ways, in disappointing directions.  They also begin to clash with the younger generation of their hometown, who have taken over their old haunts.

Things begin to strain as Stifler keeps attempting to get the guys to live it up like the old days.  Oz and Kevin both run into their old girlfriends Heather (Mena Suvari) and Vicki (Tara Reid), which stirs up old feelings in them both.  Oz dislikes Heather's new boyfriend, and realizes that he's still in love with her.  Meanwhile Kevin, after a night of heavy drinking, wakes up in bed with Vicki and stresses over the possibility that he's cheated on his wife.  Jim finds his marriage on the rocks when Michelle believes he might be cheating on her with Cara.

And Stifler finally figures out a way to get revenge on Finch for having sex with his mom (Jennifer Coolidge) back in high school...

"American Reunion" is another unlikely return of a franchise that had long-since petered out, sort of like bringing back "Die Hard" in 2007.  Writer/directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who brought us the "Harold and Kumar" movies, take over after the previous film, "American Wedding" from 2003.

The film seems to have about a dozen little plot lines running through it as it tries to close up long-running ideas from the previous three films.  It brings up old jokes and references the previous films so much that I imagine someone who hasn't seen the rest of the series pretty lost in terms of the story and characters.  But in terms of the immediate humor, it's still pretty funny stuff.  There are plenty of jokes involving sex, drinking, and, yeah, excrement.  Silly one-liners and quips are thrown around left and right, and many of the characters in the film are drunk through much of it.

Much of the humor surrounding Jason Biggs' character involves him being put in rather embarrassing situations, Stifler acts like a giant jackass, Oz wishes for a more simple life, Kevin is mostly forgettable, and Finch plays at being much more sophisticated than he really is.  Fans of the original will likely find some fun here, as the film is funny, and it has a comfortable familiarity to it with the entire original cast returning - even if some of those roles seem more like glorified cameos.  Tara Reid only appears in three or four scenes, Mena Suvari only slightly more so, and neither of them have much depth other than as foils for the male counterparts.  Of all the female characters from the original film, only Alyson Hannigan has any significant screentime or development.

Much of "American Reunion" plays on that familiarity and nostalgia that the audience has with the characters and the universe, and more broadly on the idea of coming home as adults for a high school reunion and dredging up all the old feelings.  "Reunion" then, feels very much like coming home again.  It's loaded with nostalgia for the late 1990s, including a soundtrack of hits from that decade like the Spice Girls and Semisonic.

Problematically, though, the film lacks emotional resonance despite all the schmaltz it wants to lay on about reunion storylines.  There's so much going on to try and give each character some kind of closure that none of it really gets developed all that much, even given the films 113-minute runtime, which seems lengthy for a comedy of this type.  Still, there are a number of remarkably funny sequences, most of which seem to involve Stifler or Jim's dad (which was actually often the case with the previous films as well).  Additionally, while the film is never boring, there are stretches where the humor is merely chuckle-worthy rather than really laugh-out-loud funny.

If you're a fan, you'll likely have a good time with "American Reunion."  But there's nothing about it that's groundbreaking, it relies completely on familiarity, both with its own characters and as a theme.  If you've ever gone home for your high school reunion, there's familiarity here.  And be sure to stick around through the credits for one of the film's biggest laughs.