Wednesday, April 18, 2012

American Reunion

The whole gang from the mega-successful 1999 American Pie returns for their arbitrary 13th high school reunion, which prompts the reasoning, that after four feature films, a handful of straight-to-DVD crap and a whole string of cash attached to this franchise, the films have every reason to continue to the natural progression of a life cycle.  They've covered high arrested development hornyness now from high school to college to marriage to now, a rekindling of high school sexual awakening.  This really could just continue onwards into midlife crisis and nursery homes at this point.  The one abundant flaw in the program (and I hate to sound bitter here) is that the filmmakers and group assembled (everyone is back after a few took a break from the last segment-- chronicling nerdy horny toad Jim and band-camp nympho Michelle's impending nuptials in the ill-fated American Wedding, 2004) seem to think the audience cares more about them, and their increasingly more sloppy sexual shenanigans than they really do.  The first film emerged as a mild charmer at a time when the R-rated sex comedy was being revamped, and the nostalgia for that generation's Porkys was, while forgettable, slightly endearing in the quest of a group of high school seniors trying to get laid.  The character of Jim Levinstein (Jason Biggs) felt like a credible stand-in for the nerdy (yet solid) young male desperately trying to keep his libido in check.  As was his sub-Ben Stiller mugging as everything went wrong in the process (including a YouTube video clip that still haunts him.)

There's nothing but corporate greed front and center as the journey of Jim, Oz, Kevin, Finch and the ever gregarious Stifler continues and continues.  While American Pie never exactly felt fresh, it did embody a slightly infectious innocence.  Now it just plays flat and more than a little beleaguered.  American Reunion begins, silly and naughty to form, with an encounter with Jim and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), two horny toads who found each other and happiness, now finding themselves sexually disconnected upon the arrival of their first child-- a natural progression both take for the end of the world.  An invitation of their high school reunion feels like the cure and once confronted with the old gang, the film starts to jell into it's more comfortable, if monotonous self.  It seems that like Jim, everyone else isn't all that jazzed about their current lifestyle either, all yearning to go back and party like its 1999.

Oz (a weathered Chris Klein) is a hotshot sports emcee currently famous for a Dancing With the Stars-like reality show, comes along with his trophy girlfriend (30 Rock's Katrina Bowden) who melts away when his high school sweetheart Heather (Mena Suvari) returns.  Kevin (a bearded Thomas Ian Nicholas) is a married stay at home dad who similarly melts when his high school love Vicky (Tara Reid) returns-- there's a theme here.  Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is still weird, and Stifler (Seann William Scott) is still Stifler, a relic from high school who wants to keep the party (circa 1999) going on and on, until confronted with the sad realization that he might just be the saddest, most pathetic of them all.  He's all unconscious id, but refreshingly Scott still plays him to the most excruciating hilt.  There's a certain sweetness to the reunion, but the stall jokes flat line because the ensemble almost doesn't appear in on them anymore, and all they naughty, but sweet innuendo can't stop a cast that appears bored, and even slightly embarrassed coming back to the series that for the most part made them.

There's a semblance of a plot, mostly involving Jim's struggle to keep his stuff together while fighting the advances of the barely legal (and frequently topless) neighbor he used to babysit.  There's even a few slightly welcome members to the reunion, notably Jennifer Coolidge (as Stifler's mom) and Eugene Levy (as Jim's dad) who have the best sight gag in the feature (albeit at the very end, as credits are rolling), but there's far too many elongated stretches of schlock gags that feel are as uncomfortably dated as the cast is tired.  C-

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