5 June 2012

Review: American Reunion

(Dir: Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg, 2012)

I read something recently that astounded me – American Pie has spawned seven sequels. Yes, seven! That’s a pretty impressive feat, clearly mimicking the churn and burn production line of horror sequels à la Saw and Friday 13th, and I’m sure none of those involved with the original film expected to be able to milk the franchise that much. Of course they’ve reached a direct-to-DVD point of quality where the only consist elements are Eugene Levy and a lead character with the name Stifler. Until American Reunion that is, the seventh and latest sequel where the entire cast of the first two films have returned, after evidently realising that their careers haven’t amounted to as much as the success of the first two films seemingly promised them.

So it’s thirteen years since the first American Pie, everyone has adult lives and are only casually in touch with each other, until they all reunite over a weekend for their high school reunion. This inevitably leads to long forgotten emotions surfacing, carnage and lots of nudity. As a concept this is a decent and believable way to get an original cast back together after all this time, so it’s just a shame it doesn’t actually add up to much here.

American Reunion suffers from making it's characters regress, rather than giving the audience as much full on nostalgia as it could've. Initially it’s good to see these old faces together again and watch them reconnect, but then it quickly descends into a bunch of 30 year olds acting like they’re back in high school which really isn’t much fun to watch. Perhaps it was too much to expect it to have moved on from this a bit? But maybe this was done because the characters appear far less interesting at this stage of their lives. Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are married with a kid. They seem boring. Oz (Chris Klein) is a tv personality with a crazy model girlfriend. He seems bored. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is under the thumb of his nice wife. Dull. Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) remains enigmatic and here at least there is something more genuinely interesting going on.

Then there’s the other big issue which can be summed up in one word – Stifler. Seann William-Scott’s character has always been the hardest to take in this franchise because of his charmless frat-boy-like idiocy. Here it’s amplified and feels more jarring because his character hasn’t grown up and is exactly the same, with his borderline obsessive sexual fascination. This was disappointing to see after William-Scott’s great performance in Goon, which seemed to break him free from the stereotyping this annoying character has brought his career.

And now I’m going to complain about the films preoccupation with sex. I know that was a key element of American Pie, but now it’s monotonous. Thirteen years on and it still seems like it’s the be all and end all of their lives. Maybe it’s an accurate reflection of society, but unfortunately it leaves us with cringeworthy plotlines like Jim having to keep fending off his hot eighteen year old neighbour who wants to lose her virginity with him, just as an excuse to create poor dramatic tension as he keeps it secret, and to show us some breasts. It all feels dumb and regressive.

American Reunion was disappointing. I appreciated the nostalgia, there were a few laughs and kudos for getting so many of the original supporting cast back, but it didn’t get close to living up to either of the first two films. I wonder if it is the age thing? American Pie is one of those films synonymous with university for me – it was funny, fresh and somewhat relatable, as well as having a fantastic soundtrack that represented my music taste of the time. I guess now I’ve just grown up a lot more than the characters have and watching them acting like horny schoolboys all over again has lost it’s lustre. If it had’ve been a lot funnier and they cut back on Stifler maybe I’d have been more forgiving, but as it is I’m hoping we’re not subjected to anymore reunions.   

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