‘American Reunion’ Plays Out Just Like Adulthood, And That’s Not A Good Thing

Friday, April 6 by
You might want to hold out for 'American Mortgage' or maybe 'American My Kid's First Tee Ball Game' 

In 1999, when the first American Pie movie came out, the characters were young and dumb. Fortunately, the former excused the latter, so there were no judgments, but rather a silly escapist quality to seeing these kids negotiate second base and beyond. It wasn’t really supposed to be a coming-of-age tale (though it sort of read as one). It was a story about five kids trying to get laid in high school, and all the comic pitfalls associated with that awkward stage of their (and our) lives.

In cranking out three sequels, most recently with American Reunion, the producers have kept scrounging for reasons to check in with the Great Falls Class of 1999. The second one offered a summer together during college. The third one offered Jim’s wedding. And this installment offers perhaps the most convoluted reason yet: A 13-year reunion. Why 13 years? It’s better if you don’t ask, but a throwaway explanation is given in the film.

Years later, we see that the hopeful, fun kids we met in high school are now just really, really boring adults trying to navigate adult-y issues that aren’t that fun to watch. There’s something far less interesting and more sad about a married couple (Jim and Michelle) trying to get their sex life back on track than there is about goofy teenagers stepping into that world for the first time, or even the second and third. That might be due to the fact that personalities tend to shine a little less bright as people make their way to adulthood, but a bigger factor is probably that the actors aren’t exactly breaking new ground here.

I don’t know how long it’s been since Eddie Kaye Thomas or Thomas Ian Nicholas have had to carry a film or even a scene, but they move through this film like they are contractually obligated to perform for zero dollars. The caveat of the premise is that adults ARE more boring, so there’s a decent chance that the two aforementioned actors nailed their roles, but in doing so made their characters so real that they fail to hold our interest.

The opening of the film sets the table in efficient fashion, offering us peeks into the lives of the characters. The title scene offers us the first cringe-worthy sex gag in the same way the Scream opening scenes offer us our first vicious kill. It shows Jim and Michelle in adjacent rooms masturbating, and (MILD SPOILER ALERT!) Jim slams his dick in a laptop. The couple realizes marriage and child-rearing has caused them to lose their spark in bed.

Oz (Chris Klein) is a famous sportscaster, living the dream life with his uber-hot girlfriend played by Katrina Bowden. It becomes almost instantly clear that despite the façade of a dream life, he isn’t quite as Hollywood as his partner, and longs for a more domestic existence. Cry me a goddamn river.

Kevin is something of a stay-at-home husband, whose wife has neutered him through countless viewings of The Bachelor and Real Housewives. His plight is never really developed beyond the superficial “I miss hanging with the boys” conceit, but the whole situation seems to just exist to have him fawn all over his ex, played by Tara Reid. Tara Reid manages to look like she wandered onto the set, as she has in most every role she’s ever taken.

Finch pulls up as the world’s most interesting man, having travelled the globe in a zen-like search of enlightenment. Finch’s quest to become one with the world appears to have been successful, as Thomas plays the role as if he’s been pumped full of Xanax and could have cigarettes put out on him. The restrained character seemed to unintentionally serve as an audience surrogate, just taking it all in and not really worrying what these idiots are up to, because life has a way of working out.

And Stifler. Stifler turns out the way most guys like Stifler turn out. Beaten down by life, realizing that they mortgaged their future by behaving like caged animals in high school and college. That said, Seann William Scott’s enthusiasm for the role is one of the few compelling facets of this film. He comes across as genuinely excited for the opportunity to destroy jet skis and poop in a cooler, and as such punctuates the film with the childhood whimsy that has been lacking in the sequels. Of course, this wonder is tapered by a work obligation he must address to prove that even he is capable of growing up.

These arcs are established in the first 15 minutes or so of the film, leaving a long time for the characters to go on their predictable journeys, with breasts and painful close-up of Jason Biggs penis along the way. It would seem that, since the first film, the American Pie franchise has turned into the Police Academy of sex comedies. There’s a starting point, an ending point, and a parade of scenes that can be played in any order without much affecting where the film ends up. When the characters were 20, the journey was the point, but now it gets more difficult to figure out what the point of the film really is.

A few offhand comments:

  • John Cho appears briefly in a great scene that demonstrates that enthusiasm for this film is best confined to 45-second bursts.
  • We see Jason Bigg’s penis. Whether we want to or not.
  • Jim’s Dad lost his wife. Although it’s glossed over, it’s probably the only genuinely stirring moment of the film.
  • Chris Klein really looks the part of an over-the-top sportscaster. I would watch him on ESPN, provided he changed his catchphrase.
  • It’s truly amazing that this film still holds sacred its silly generic 90’s-rock soundtracks. The music sucks, but it’s one of the more charming and nostalgic features this far into the franchise.
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