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All Grown Up

American Reunion
Starring Jason Biggs, Alyson
Hannigan, Seann William Scott

THIS ONE TIME... ‘American Reunion’ attempts to channel late ‘90s fame, but the melodramatic characters bring the story down. Courtesy photo

I fondly remember 1999. It was an exciting year for cinema. Audiences would spend the first few months of the year feverishly anticipating the release of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace,” then spend the last few months in a state of perpetual depression over just how awful it was. “The Matrix” was wowing people with special effects never before seen onscreen. “The Blair Witch Project” was a cultural phenomenon that would eventually launch an entire new genre of film. And everybody couldn’t stop talking about this kid sticking his dick in a pie.

“American Pie” was a raunchy little high-school sex comedy that managed to launch several short-lived careers and created a number of memorable catch phrases that would be regurgitated by comically challenged men for the next several years.

It was a fun movie—horny with a side of heartfelt. Successful enough to launch a couple of forgettable theatrical sequels and a half-dozen direct-to-video riffs that are best left unmentioned. “American Reunion” is an attempt at stoking our nostalgic fires. Unfortunately, the entire premise is based on our fond remembrances of these characters and our express interest in their lives 13 years later.
With that, I take my first rant…

So the setup for “American Reunion” is that our old friends Jim (Jason Biggs), Oz (Chris Klein), Stifler (Sean William Scott) and the rest of the gang are returning for their 10-year high-school reunion. Fair enough.

Rather than just set the movie in 2009, they decide to openly engage the audience and explain how someone dropped the ball, and their 10-year reunion is actually happening 13 years later.

Wait. What? Seriously?

Did the creative team behind the movie think that the audience would be unable to wrap their mind around the idea that this movie takes place three years ago? I realize the intended audience for the “American Pie” movies aren’t Rhodes Scholars, but I think the average American movie-goer would be capable of watching a film that was released in 2012 that takes place in 2009 without their brain cells crashing. This is a day and age where Abraham Lincoln can hunt vampires and supermodels can play scientists, but making a movie set three years ago would somehow confuse us all.

So, it’s 13 years later and the gang is an older, sadder version of their former selves. Jim is married to his high-school sweetheart Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) and is suffering from a lackluster sex life. Oz is a marginally famous sportscaster who has spent some time on reality shows. Stifler is miring in corporate middle management. And the other two guys have such boring subplots that it’s not even worth the energy to explain their uninteresting situations. Now, they’re back for their reunion and trying to relive some of their glory days. This involves drinking, partying, and taking on some territorial high-school students. Knibb High football rules!

The biggest problem with “American Reunion” is how boring it is. The material is recycled and the actors aren’t exactly highly skilled thespians. This means the much-needed pathos feels forced. The movie becomes unintentionally funny.

Thirteen years ago these were fresh-faced kids launched into stardom. Now they are a random collection of Hollywood wash-ups given another shot at big-screen success. Who would have thought in 1999 that the two people that would still have careers in 2012 were Stifler and the band-camp girl who talked about sticking a flute where the sun don’t shine?

Chris Klein is the most fascinating to watch. The guy’s career is a tragedy of operatic proportions. He went from “American Pie“ to headline big-budget monstrosities like “Rollerball” before being savaged by the Internet age where videos of his “Mama Mia” audition became another nail in is career crucifixion. Watching him in “American Reunion,” trying to channel that youthful charm with a forehead full of hair plugs is kind of sad. Even sadder is watching Shannon Elizabeth and Natasha Lyonne show up for cameos. Even as I’m typing their names, I wonder how many people will know who I’m talking about. Fame is fleeting, my friends; “American Reunion” is a living testament to that fact.

There’s a couple of funny scenes here and there. Sean William Scott’s Stifler is still the best thing about the “American Pie” movies. He’s a relentless asshole and revels in it. For the entire movie he’s the only one that’s having any fun. Everyone else is so mired in their boring little melodramas that it sucks the life out of the film.

It’s kind of adorable when you’re watching horny high school kids desperate to get their first piece. Everybody’s been there. That’s the kind of fun and nostalgia people want out of “American Pie”—not to listen to a bunch of 30-year-olds whine about how boring adult life has become. It’s a little heavy on the sentimentality and not heavy enough on the deviant sexual promiscuity. Still, if you’re into Greek tragedies, check it out to revel in the ashen pile that is Chris Klein’s career.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. JWT

    April 18, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Re: All Grown up Anghus: Loved your spot-on review of American Reunion! But you left out the biggest ‘film story’ of the summer of ’99: Those of us who had nothing better to do in August, wandered into the multiplex and bought a ticket to the latest ‘Crappy Bruce Willis Thriller’ and would up having to keep the ‘secret’ of that great movie from our friends and co-workers well through the Fall. Good times…

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