Time for another slice of pie? “Yes Please!” A review of “American Reunion” (2012)
**WARNING: Minor Spoilers**
There seems to be a fixation with 90’s reunion’s as of late, with several UK pop groups such as “Steps” reforming. In terms of cinema, later this year we are being treated to another sequel to alien action comedy “Men in Black 3” and 2011 saw the re-boot of the “Scream” franchise, the movie that redefined the horror genre back in the 90’s, therefore it makes perfect sense to do the same to the crude, teen movie that is just as much as part of 90’s nostalgia as everything else mentioned, “American Pie”.
“American Reunion” still has a certain charm and it’s definitely great to see the old gang back together. Its managed to update itself while mixing in nostalgia and in-jokes tailored for the fans of the original offerings of pie. The film definitely achieved its objectives as it balances out great humor, relatively funny gags, consistent continuity derived from the previous three helpings and of course the characters who make a welcome transition from the late 90’s/early 00’s into the present day.
The film opens with a crude, in-your-face sequence including a laptop, some porn and a shower! It is in place to remind the audience what they’ve missed and exactly what their in for! Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are back, they may have aged but they still deliver the hilarious slapstick style of comedy that was on offer in the first three movies! Their plot-line centers around their adjustment into parent-hood and reluctance of how so much as changed since they were teenagers. It is soon discovered that Jim is still in touch with Kevin (Thomas Ian Nichols) and along with the other guys Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Oz (Chris Klein) they are heading back to East Great Falls for their thirteen year high school reunion!
Oz was last seen in the second movie, he has since married a super-model and is a sports announcer on NFL, he also has a reputation for being famous in a “Dancing with the Stars“-type TV show in which he lost out to Gilbert Gottfried and can’t seem to shake the stigma!! Out of the core characters, Oz has the most interesting character development as he feels melancholic in his superficial lifestyle and longs for the times he had with the boys and his high school sweetheart Heather (Mena Suvari). A nice touch that the fans will appreciate is during their scene at the reunion dance Bic Runga’s “Sway” plays as the couple reunite, the same song was used in the first movie when they first sleep together.
Stifler (Sean William Scott) doesn’t fail to entertain and after the disastrous “Wedding” installment he is back on top form! In many ways he has not changed or grown up, still mocking his peers, holding wild parties, always spoiling for a fight and trying his luck with the opposite sex. What’s great about “Reunion” is seeing a more human side to him as he makes the realization he was never fully accepted by the guys and is constantly put down by his boss. As always he still comes through in the end and in some ways is the main attraction to the franchise! He has some great one-liners and is the main source of the gags which allow some brilliant laugh-out-loud moments!
Another character that remains equally as entertaining is Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy). He still gives embarrassing and awkward advice to his son but also comes through when Jim really needs him. This provides an endearing quality to him. “Reunion” sees him get wasted and of course there’s the genius and long awaited encounter with Stifler’s Mom (Jennifer Coolidge)!
Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan give terrific performances as their alter-ego’s in a perfectly balanced mix of comedy and drama as they play the sexually-frustrated married couple! They face an obstacle in the shape of teenager Kara (Ali Cobrin) who lusts after Jim and is going to do everything in her power to seduce him! This plot-line was a least favorable one as it features a kind hear-ted Jim driving her home safely following too much drinking, only for her to strip off and throw herself at him followed by knocking herself out in the car. The scene is played for laughs however comes across awkward and uncomfortable to watch as if this incident occurred in real life it would be slightly more traumatic. “American Pie” has never been one to hold back therefore it wasn’t entirely off the field for them.
Finch’s storyline held a sense of realism, depicting a man worried he hasn’t made the best of his life, therefore fabricates exotic stories to impress his friends and a potential love interest. It however teaches that everyone is in the same boat with regular jobs, marriage and kids and its not to say they haven’t made something of themselves. Having Finch confront that was a fitting touch and emphasized the themes of obsession for nostalgia and looking back at the past that is also a recurring theme in today’s society.
The more pointless of plot-lines came in the shape of Kevin crossing paths with ex-girlfriend Vicki (Tara Reid), as there was so much else going on, their screen time was limited therefore lacked development between them resulting in a far-fetched conclusion where the two of them share a dance at the reunion with Kevin’s new wife Ellie (Charlene Amoia).
The cameos at the reunion were great fun, each with humorous results. It was enjoyable to see moments from all the minor characters including the MILF guys, Sherman, Nadia and Jessica. The only criticism in this instance is if there had been more screen time a lot more could have been done with them. Nevertheless it was nice seeing them included. Also a mention to the introduction of Finch’s Mom (Rebecca DeMornay) brought an interesting twist!
The main criticism of the film would have to be the re-enforced stereotypes of homosexual characters, depicting gay guys are overly camp and lesbians as really butch. It wasn’t funny or done in an intelligent way and felt out-of-place in a 2012 comedy in a more accepting day and age. Seeing the stereotypes critiqued instead of celebrated would have brought a more interesting edge and given the film a better quality. There was also the portrayal of today’s generation of teenagers that the movie dealt with in a patronizing manner, this was depicted in a scene where an 18-year-old states “The Spice Girls” are considered “classic rock”.It seems far-fetched and unbelievable that a teenager would be so out of touch to make that sort of remark, undermining that particular age group. The core characters also behave in this way towards them by stereotyping that teenage girls would automatically be fans of “Twilight” and Justin Bieber, this is clearly an attempt to cash in on as many pop culture jokes as possible however comes across as cheap! On the positive side, a worthy mention needs to be given to the mise-en-scene during the reunion scenes with how it was decorated with palm trees re-capturing the spirit of the prom from the original.
Overall “American Reunion” certainly delivered a long-awaited slice of pie and defied prior negative expectations. A great reminder of the past that incorporated something new and fresh at the same time. It didn’t go overboard with gross-out humor or nudity which actually contributed to creating a funnier film as it was done just right. Despite a couple of nit-picks it managed to maintain funny, crude, dramatic and heartwarming elements and if there’s one American comedy franchise that achieves this its definitely this one!
It still has potential mileage, I wouldn’t say no to another in the near future!
Ranking “American Pie” films from best to least favorite:
#1. American Pie (1999)
#2. American Reunion (2012)
#3. American Pie 2 (2001)
#4. American Pie: The Wedding (2003)
Hayley Alice Roberts.