19 May 2012

Review: American Reunion



B


American Reunion
2012, 113mins, 15 
Director (s): Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg 
Writer (s): Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg 
Cast includes: Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Tara Reid, Alyson Hannigan, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Chris Klein, Eugene Levy 
UK Release Date: 2nd May 2012 

 In 1999 “American Pie” made quite a splash, cooking up a full throttle box –office storm and working its way (deservedly in this writer’s mind) into the annals of classic teen cinema. Its combination of memorable gross out sequences, endearing characters and fresh faced performances connected with the adolescents of the day, leading to a predictable slew of sequels. 2001’s “American Pie 2” had its moments but ultimately sank into tedium and the less said about 2003’s “American Wedding” the better. The original cast then abandoned the franchise, leaving it with no choice but to sink into the bowels of DTV hell. Now 13 years after the original slice we have “American Reunion”, bringing the original cast back together as adults, primed for one last hoorah at their high-school reunion. The film isn’t as outrageously funny as the 1999 spectacular, but it’s a vast improvement over anything we’ve seen since, once again turning the antics of this lovable group of rogues into viable big screen entertainment. It’s been

13-years since the boys tried to desperately shed their v-cards and a lot has changed. Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are married with a kid, but their marriage has fallen into a sexless rut. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is very much in love with his wife, but finds his role as a stay at home husband confining. Oz (Chris Klein) is a B-list celebrity, hosting a moderately recognisable sports show, but struggling to find satisfaction alongside his dim-witted, party obsessed girlfriend (Kristina Bowden). Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is well travelled but very lonely and incorrigible old Stifler (Seann William Scott) is now taking orders from the guys he used to beat up at school, trapped in an unrewarding temp position. With their High-School reunion beckoning, the guys decide to make a long weekend of the occasion, meeting up to relive the glories of old, reflect on their lives so far and to create a few new memories of their own.

 For the first time with a theatrically released “Pie” endeavour, original screenwriter Adam Herz is out of a job, “Harold and Kumar” scribes Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg brought in to write and direct this adventure. They deliver a decent script, cultivating several genuinely amusing set-pieces, finding the same tone of anarchy and accidental bad taste that the series has come to trade on. “American Reunion” also displays a healthy dose of heart, easily the warmest entry since the original. It’s a genial picture, trading on nostalgia and the built in love these characters have earned, Schlossberg and Hurwitz realising the biggest pull “American Reunion” has is getting these guys back in a room together. It’s a funny picture, make no mistake, but the grandest pleasure to be derived from this effort is the reunion aspect.

The cast are on sharp form, many of them relishing being in a major motion picture for the first time in years. Jason Biggs once again proves that Jim is the only part he’ll ever play successfully, possibly giving the best performance of his career, at least since his initial rise to stardom with the first “Pie”. Jim is a likable lug, still brimming with innocence and good intentions, Biggs embodying the character effectively. Hannigan on the other hand has done a fair amount of prosperous TV work over the last number of years, the actress looking less invested in her role. She shares her scenes with Biggs comfortably, but unfortunately her turn lacks the energy of past entries. Eddie Kaye Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas and Chris Klein stumble cosily through the picture, left to work with little but a series of punch lines, leaving other franchise favourites Chris Owen (Shermanator), Jon Cho (MILF Guy #2) and Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler’s mom) with the opportunity to steal scenes in cameo appearances.

The two standouts are Eugene Levy and Seann William Scott, Schlossberg and Hurwitz taking particular interest in these damaged souls. As Jim’s widowed father, Levy is both jocose (the awkward conversations still rock the funny bone) but also subtly affecting, playing his loneliness with delicate grace. Scott is once again a tornado of ribald energy, gifting “American Reunion” it’s brightest comedic star, but also a genuinely fascinating insight into growing-up. Stifler is deeply unhappy and unfulfilled, using the reunion as an excuse to return to his alpha-male wonder days, shunning his current existence as a desk jockey “bitch” to revel in the past. Scott is both extremely entertaining but also sympathetic, quite the achievement given his character’s brutish tendencies.

At 113 minutes in length the movie is much too beefy, an entire subplot involving a nubile babysitter leading to one moment of delightful physical comedy but also a wealth of dull character interactions and broad, teenage girl based gags (jokes about Nicki Minaj albums aren’t that witty). I suppose it’s all part of the film’s thesis to indulge itself and the audience in all things “American Pie”, but this fourth official slice would have worked just as efficiently over a tighter 90 minute time frame.

“American Reunion” is unambitious but it is charming, reacquainting us nicely with characters we fell in love with over ten years ago. The cast are game, the new creative team inject just enough creative fuel to keep the formula ticking over and the charisma still pops up in about the right quantity. Imperfect, gentle but refreshingly sweet, “American Reunion” marks a tasty confection.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2012

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