Movie Review: American Reunion
Rating: R (crude sexual content, language, nudity, teen drinking, drug use)
Length: 113 minutes
Release Date: April 6, 2012
Directed by: Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg
Stars: 4 out of 5
When the original "American Pie" burst onto the scene in 1999, there was nothing else quite like it. The somewhat crude humor, gratuitous talk about sex and overall raunchiness was fairly unprecedented. Also unheard of was an R-rated comedy making a huge box-office splash. The common wisdom in Hollywood at the time was that a comedy had to be PG-13 in order to make any money.
Not only did "American Pie" break all the rules, it set the stage for other raunchy R-rated comedies as well. Big hits like "The Hangover" owe it a debt of gratitude. Since then, two more films featuring the East Great Falls gang and some very ill-conceived direct-to-video offshoots have been filmed. Now with the fourth installment, "American Reunion," fans get to see what happened to the group now that they are being forced to grow up.
As it turns out, everyone has grown up except for Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), who seems locked in a time warp. Sure, he holds down a job and seems to be at least somewhat socially functional. But he is still the same jerk he has always been, and the movie really is better for it. He provides some of the raunchiest scenes in the entire film. Admittedly, some of these scenes seem tame compared to other fare at movie theaters lately, but that is part of the charm of "American Reunion." It is not trying to gross you out. Instead, it is trying to make you gasp just a bit while you laugh out loud.
There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. The marriage of Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) is in trouble. While they still obviously love each other very much, they have been very disconnected romantically since the birth of their son. Their attempts to reconnect provide some drama to balance out the comedy.
The other big drama is whether Oz (Chris Klein) still has feelings for high school sweetheart Heather (Mena Suvari). He comes to the reunion after a humiliating and very public fall from grace with a girlfriend who clearly doesn't love him.
Kevin (Thomas Ian Nichols) and Vicky (Tara Reid) reconnect, but not quite in the way you might think. Though their storyline could have easily gone very dramatic and possibly even tragic, the screenplay by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg wisely steers clear of high drama.
Also along for the ride is Jim's dad (Eugene Levy), who is still reeling from losing his wife many months earlier. Jim spends part of the movie trying to spend time with his lonely dad. The result is a surprise that veers completely away from what you might expect based on the first three movies in the series.
In fact, several things have changed with this fourth movie. Some, like Jim accidentally embarrassing himself while naked, never change. Stifler hasn't changed a bit either, as all the maturity he began to show in "American Wedding" seems to be completely forgotten. The rest of the characters have changed, though. It almost feels like these changes are a reflection of how much the world has changed since we first met these characters in 1999.
With change comes a little bit of bittersweet reminiscing. Even though it is a comedy, "American Reunion" is not afraid to get nostalgic. It its core, the movie is actually almost as sweet as it is funny. This willingness to be sweet and raunchy at the same time is what makes the movie so good.
The fourth entry into a film franchise is usually dead on arrival, especially if there has been a nine-year gap between movies. This could have easily been a really cheap, unfunny production slapped together in a blatant attempt to capitalize on the franchise name. Instead, the audience is treated to a funny, heartwarming and well-done movie. This is a testament to directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who also co-wrote the script. They obviously love the characters and took great pains to make them funny yet relatable.
No matter what your feelings are about the first three movies, don't let that deter you from seeing "American Reunion." Even those who never saw the first three or only vaguely remember them will like this film. It is often hilarious yet raunchy and hopeful all at the same time. A delicate balance like that in an R-rated comedy is pretty rare, making this the best out of all four "American Pie" films.