A quick note before the review begins: The theater I saw American Reunion in had some technical difficulties with their sound system. As such I watched the entire film without a soundtrack. Dialog and sound effects come out fine, but whatever speakers pump out the music were shot. It’s a shame because I hear that the soundtrack is basically the 90s encapsulated in music. No matter when the music is from, a score or soundtrack is a big part of why we connect or don’t connect with a film so when reading this review please take into account that fact.
This being said I’m not sure a great 90s soundtrack could really make American Reunion the movie I wanted it to be. American Pie is a landmark film in anyone’s life who was the right age when the movie came out, and unlike the second and third movies (and the myriad of straight to DVD spin-offs) I was really expecting American Reunion to be something special. However, despite bringing back every single person from the original film (I swear the extras are the same) American Reunion still can’t capture the original’s magic.
Directors: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Release Date: April 6, 2012
Don’t misunderstand. Pretty much every American film released in theaters has been enjoyable, but as they’ve gone on it has become obvious that the characters have overstayed their welcome. With the amount of time that had passed there was a hope that American Reunion would be far fresher and thus funnier than it turned out to be. This movie is funny and has some great gags throughout it, but they’ve all been used so many times in the previous films that it’s hard to keep laughing at them. For a first time viewer Jim (Jason Biggs) and his dad (Eugene Levy) having a wonderfully awkward conversation might be hilarious, but for those of us that have seen it three times over it’s not really delivering anything new.
The same goes for the rest of the cast. Since the movie didn’t get off the ground soon enough to excuse them all coming back for their 10 year anniversary the film decides that everyone has returned for the 13th year anniversary. Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), Oz (Chris Klein), Stifler (Sean William Scott), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nichols), Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), Vicky (Tara Reid) and Heather (Mena Survari) all come tumbling back into town somehow with the exact same problems we thought were resolved in the first three films. Jim and Michelle’s sex life is on the rocks, Oz and Heather are once again apart, Kevin and Tara are pointless and Stifler is, well, Stifler.
As a chunk of nostalgia American Reunion exceeds in spades. A lot of the funniest jokes will not make any sense at all if you haven’t seen the first films and still wouldn’t make you laugh if those movies weren’t as seminal to you as they are to a certain generation. While there are plenty of gross out gags to laugh over and a pretty great scenario involving Jim and a naked 18-year-old neighbor the crux of the film lies on the audiences nostalgia for the previous movies. If you didn’t grow up with these films you’re going to have trouble caring very much about anything going on.
This is especially true for Kevin and Vicky whose story is so neglected throughout the film it’s easy to forget that they even came back, especially since not one pot shot is taken at Tara Reids “expanded assets.” It’s like they got the Jim parts in, worked in their Stifler jokes, tossed in the real relationship with Oz and Heather, twirled in some Finch so they could hit up the mother-fucker jokes and then realized they had to cram in Kevin somewhere. While Kevin and Vicky were never anyone’s favorite characters it’s a bit indicative of the entire film’s feeling that there actually wasn’t much new to do with these characters.
Then again, maybe that nostalgia previously said to be supporting the film is exactly what is tearing it down. There are definitely laughs in this movie. Series screenwriter Adam Herz has always been able to cook up some deliciously funny scenarios and lines that walk that perfect line between disgusting and hilarious. However, those that expect more out of the film and know these characters won’t really find what they’re looking for here. American Reunion finds itself in an odd conundrum where its nostalgia is both its saving grace and its worst enemy.
For a movie about what happens when people grow up American Reunion is surprisingly immature in its comedy. This isn’t a bad thing, however, as the immature comedy that it features can be quite funny. It’s just unfortunate that the parts of the film that were supposed to be more grown up didn’t really age. While full of nostalgia and definitely funny at times American Reunion doesn’t quite grasp the generation it’s portraying like the original film did. Whether that’s because cramming adulthood and American Pie together doesn’t work or because there really didn’t seem to be that much new to do with these characters is unclear, but either way it seems even Stifler has finally worn out his welcome.