Does anyone honestly care about the American Pie series anymore? The franchise’s glory days are long gone; 2003’s lacklustre American Wedding and a string of abominable straight-to-video spin-offs (minus Jason Biggs and co) effectively sent the brand name to the morgue. Enter 2012’s American Reunion, for which most all of the original cast members were rounded up for another theatrical outing of nudity and sexual gags. Rather than using this sequel as an opportunity to reinvent the series with fresh maturity, the film instead reheats old jokes, placing the aging protagonists in exactly the same type of situations that they endured a decade ago. Thus, the whole enterprise is nothing groundbreaking, but American Reunion is a fun and energetic comedy destined to please any fans of the series who still exist. It’s better than its high franchise number would have you assume, and it’s the bestAmerican Pie sequel yet.
It has been 13 years since the boys of East Great Falls graduated from high school. Since none of them were bothered enough to organise a 10-year class reunion, a 13-year reunion is decided upon, and the whole class is scheduled to attend. Jim (Biggs) is now in a troubled, sexless marriage with Michelle (Hannigan), Kevin (Nicholas) is facing an emasculating home life with his spouse, Oz (Klein) is an ESPN host, and Finch (Thomas) is full of stories about global adventure and travel. Looking to spend some quality drinking time together, Jim, Kevin, Oz and Finch decide to congregate in their hometown a few days before the reunion. Unfortunately, the infamous Stifler (Scott) manages to get himself involved in their shenanigans as well…
The original creator of American Pie, Adam Herz, assumed executive producing duties here – the writing and directing responsibilities were instead entrusted to Harold and Kumar creators Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. They may not have taken part in the first film, but Hurwitz and Schlossberg’s understanding of the franchise’s appeal and respect for the characters is evident in every frame of American Reunion. The pair clearly knew exactly what made the series so popular in the first place, and they set out to replicate the same type of humour and create new vignettes reminiscent of key scenes from prior movies. The gags aren’t always home runs, but it’s surprising how many of them actually land. Furthermore, Hurwitz and Schlossberg didn’t baulk from exploring the realities of adulthood; the feeling that our lives have not played out in line with our dreams, and the realisation that things will never be the same as they were in teenage-hood. It gives the film evidence of depth and thought.
While prowling for laughs, American Reunion is a complete hoot, and it consistently maintains a high level of energy to prevent boredom from setting in. The dramatic elements, on the other hand, are far less successful. As a matter of fact, it feels as if another writer was exclusively responsible for the drama. It doesn’t help that the serious stuff is so clichéd: a troubled marriage, tension between former lovers, friendships falling apart, a girl throwing herself at Jim, and so on. All of the plot crises were ripped straight out of the “Faux Heart” chapter in the comedy handbook, and they aren’t handled well enough to come across as anything but conventional distractions. At the very least, though, there is not a lot of drama. In fact, American Reunion is focused on laughs for a good 80% of its runtime, and it refuses to revel in the despondent periods. Unfortunately, however, the actual reunion is more of a minor footnote to the movie’s comedic vignettes than a key set-piece. An extra 5 or 10 minutes of watching old characters reuniting (there are a few far-too-short cameos) could have made the film feel more complete.
It had been many years since the ensemble had adopted these iconic personas, but every single one of them effortlessly slipped back into their former roles as if no time had passed. The central group of boys – Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kay Thomas and Seann William Scott – are especially good, delivering a lot of laughs and enjoyably bringing their characters back to life. Suffice it to say, the extraordinarily game Scott scores an enormous amount of laughs as Stifler. But the one who steals the show is Eugene Levy as Jim’s Dad (who has somehow starred in all American Pie films, including all of the straight-to-video malarkey). Levy’s comedic instincts are incredibly sharp and he has a soothing screen presence, not to mention it never looks as if Levy is merely present for the paycheque.
For long-time fans, it will prove to be a treat to catch up with the likes of Jim, Finch, Kevin and Oz (who was AWOL in American Wedding) once again, and to see how adulthood is treating them. American Reunion can be enjoyed by anybody who has a taste for these types of bawdy R-rated comedies, but the film is also a respectful love note to fans of the franchise who have been following the lives of these guys for so long. The film gives all of the protagonists the character arcs that they deserve, leaving us optimistic about what the future holds for them. Indeed, the movie does have heart underneath its sex comedy routine. It’s pleasantly surprising that the film feels less like a shameless cash-grab and more like a creative way to bring closure to this series.