Review: American Reunion

(Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, 2012)
(Originally posted at CineVue)

Casually disregarding the four noncanonical outings that exploited an already strained franchise (Band Camp, The Naked Mile et al), American Pie: Reunion returns to the characters and relationships of the original American Pie story – that ragtag group of sexually rambunctious young adults last seen in 2003’s sparsely populated American Pie: The Wedding – for apparently one last slice of smut and nostalgic camaraderie.

Directed by series newcomers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who here reteam with their Harold & Kumar star John Cho, Reunion willingly slips into the tired grooves of its three predecessors by essentially retooling the formula and rehashing variations of the same jokes, structuring them around the thin premise of a High School reunion; the gang’s thirteenth anniversary of adulthood. Now with child and experiencing something of a sexual rut in his marriage to Michelle (a staid Alyson Hannigan), perennially awkward Jim (Jason Biggs) returns home to find that, besides a perky neighbour – for whom he used to babysit – and a father still mourning his deceased wife, his legacy as a pie humping, viral video starring adolescent remains steadily intact. Reteaming with old friends Kevin (Thomas Ian Nichols), ‘Oz’ (Chris Klein) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), who have all taken somewhat disparate paths in life post-graduation, the gang go about enjoying their weekend away from maturity and, more importantly, relationship obligations. However, when enfante terrible Stifler (fluently played again by Sean William Scott) rears his maniacal head once more, the gang’s penchant for sticky situations and lewd mishaps returns in force.

The explicit pupil in 1999’s school of softcore – and superior – teen movies (Election, 10 Things I Hate About You, etc), the original American Pie was as much a throwback to the teenage foibles of Porky’s as it was an epochal depiction of American high school culture, replete with haranguing jocks and twee choir folk who all toil under the banner of sexual frustration. Reunion, in its clear attempt at emulating the crude but eventually sweet nature of the preceding instalments, inherently suffers because of its standing amongst a subgenre populated by derivative films that have built upon the American Pie’s innovative success, to varying degrees of memorability. As a result, the film feels insubstantial and faceless, a pale imitator that brings nothing new to the table.

Though there may be some melancholy for fans of the originals to be in the company of the balding and altogether rounder cast members once more, with characters dragged back to the fold in either large roles or fleeting cameos (Shannon Elizabeth’s Nadia, Natasha Lyonne’s confirmed lesbian Jessica), Reunion rarely shakes a feeling of desperation, of a final bid to reignite the waning careers of actors whose thirteen year old potential has barely been fulfilled. With this disenfranchised subtext left regrettably un-mined, what Hurwitz and Schlossberg’s script makes ample room for is dated toilet humour and a mindless treatment of women as either prudish caregivers or disposable fellators, which are lost in a useless rehash that just feels plainly embarrassing.

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