American Reunion

Cast:
Jason Biggs as Jim
Alyson Hannigan as Michelle Flaherty-Levenstein
Eddie Kaye Thomas as Finch
Seann William Scott as Steve Stifler
Chris Klein as Oz
Thomas Ian Nicholas as Kevin Myers
Eugene Levy as Jim’s Dad
Jennifer Coolidge as Stifler’s Mom
Mena Suvari as Heather
Tara Reid as Vicky Lathum
Dania Ramirez as Selena
Katrina Bowden as Mia
Shannon Elizabeth as Nadia
John Cho as MILF Guy #2
Natasha Lyonne as Jessica
Chris Owen as Chuck Sherman
Ali Cobrin as Kara
Charlene Amoia as Ellie
Jay Harrington as Ron
Vik Sahay as Prateek Duraiswamy
Molly Cheek as Jim’s Mom
Autumn Dial as Alexa
Chuck Hittinger as AJ
Justin Isfeld as MILF Guy #1

Directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg

Story:
Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) and his wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) return to East Great Falls, Michigan for their 13th high school reunion where Jim reconnects with his best friends from high school–Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Oz (Chris Klein) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas)–some of whom have changed dramatically and some, like the chronically immature Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), not having changed at all since high school.

Analysis:
As original and groundbreaking as the original “American Pie” movie may have been for its time in terms of how far one could take R-rated humor–though let’s face it, “Animal House” was more cutting edge twenty years earlier–I was never a huge fan. The original three movies tended to go for the lowest-hanging fruit possible for laughs, but when desperate virgin Jim (Jason Biggs) finally met Alyson Hannigan’s quirky and constantly-horny flute player Michelle, the movie took a different direction, showing how one immature guy grows from meeting his soulmate and letting life takes its course.

Something got lost in that process as the nature of the humor evolved, but 13 years later, Jim is still obsessed with sex, but now, he and Michelle, who were married in the last theatrical installment, have a two year old and their sex life has dried up, since they don’t have the time or energy to get freaky anymore, at least not with embarrassing repercussions. Their high school reunion is a chance to return to the past and rekindle the sexual energy of their youth and for Jim, it’s his first chance to hang out with his high school friends in years. Once there, he runs into the girl next door Jim used to babysit, now 18, smokin’ hot and super slutty, ready to throw herself at the significantly older Jim to take her virginity. Oh, how times have changed. Meanwhile, Jim’s friends Oz, Kevin and Finch are dealing with women from their past, rekindling feelings of first love.

We don’t want to give too much away, but if you’re a fan of the original movies, you’re going to enjoy seeing what everyone’s been up to, especially Chris Klein’s Oz, now a sportscaster who had a stint on a celebrity dance show, although as may be expected, the movie quickly turns into “The Stifler Show” as Seann William Scott’s antics become the focus of the laughs.

Having always felt the “Harold & Kumar” movies used raunch in a far more clever way than the “American Pie” sequels, it’s nice seeing their creators Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg using their skills to allow the situational comedy to unfold in an episodic manner. Some of the stories run through the entire film but others involve the group showing up at one party or another and bad and funny things happening to them. Somehow, the filmmakers find a way to manage the abundance of characters and stories in a way that never feels dull or repetitious.

Some of the gags work better than others, mostly the ones that don’t go for the most obvious low-brow laughs, but more surprisingly are the nice, even heartwarming moments, mostly involving Jim with Michelle and his widower father–not only the role Eugene Levy was born to play but one he enhances in ways beyond what anyone could imagine–who he tries to get back out on the dating circuit. Some things just don’t work at all like Stifler’s obsession with the girl from high school that got away, a plotline that’s never fully resolved in a satisfying way.

As much as Scott easily falls back into the role of Stifler without missing a beat, Jason Biggs has still got it in terms of being as instantly likeable as he was back in 1999. On the other hand, Klein is the most surprising scene-stealer, especially when we see his stint on “Celebrity Dance-Off”, which is just as funny as Stifler’s own dance-off in “American Wedding.” The filmmakers even develop a story arc for “Harold & Kumar” star John Cho’s “MILF Guy #2,” who maybe appeared for five minutes in the first movie, if that.

It quickly becomes obvious how unnecessary Thomas Ian Nicholas’s Kevin and Eddie Kaye Thomas’s Finch are to the mix with both their stories feeling underdeveloped. When we meet Kevin, he’s happily married and a bit whipped, but when he encounters Tara Reid’s Vicky again, he immediately throws caution to the wind and rekindles that romance. It doesn’t make sense nor does it feel justified. For the most part, the women are even more underused, there merely for the sake of nostalgia with neither Tara Reid nor Mena Suvari having the allure their characters had in the first movie. More time is spent with new characters played by Dania Ramirez as a former ugly duckling who connects with Finch and Katrina Bowden as Oz’s model girlfriend.

It’s slightly more satisfying when other characters from the first movie make appearances in the last act, although we would have liked to see more of Natasha Lyonne’s Jessica and her transformation. Still, it creates for much stronger closure for the series than the resolution offered by “American Wedding” and it really starts playing with nostalgia once it gets to the actual reunion and every single song in the soundtrack seems taken from a popular movie from ten years ago. In other words, Third Eye Blind is going to have a nice bit of beer money next time they tour.

The Bottom Line:
While there isn’t much redefining of the wheel going on here, “American Reunion” is a fun trip down memory lane that offers enough nostalgia, laughs and drama to the characters whom you’re likely to have forgotten how much you loved.

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