Directed by Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg. Starring Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, John Cho, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, Natasha Lyonne, Dania Ramirez, Katrina Bowden, Jay Harrington, Chuck Hittinger, Shannon Elizabeth, Chris Owen, Justin Isfeld. Written by Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, from characters created by Adam Herz.
The original American Pie was no masterpiece, but it was one of those raunchy coming-of-age films (like Porky’s or Fast Times at Ridgemont High before it, and Superbad later on) that perfectly captured the youthful culture of its era. Two sequels of similar content (but lower quality) came afterward, followed by a quartet of direct-to-DVD spinoffs, unseen by most.
American Reunion is the fourth official film in the series, reuniting the extended cast for the first time since 2001’s American Pie 2. No surprises: it offers more of the same, raunchy and explicit comedy mixed with sex-focused adolescent sentiment. Familiar and friendly, it’s a sitcom writ large, with a healthy dose of the R-rated material you don’t get on TV.
Never a big fan of the series, I was surprised to find American Reunion a more-than-comfortable and even welcome return to these characters (and the actors who play them, many of whom have had limited exposure in mainstream fare since the earlier films). Thoroughly amusing – if only occasionally laugh-out-loud funny – it’s easily the best film in the series since the original.
Everyone is back: Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are happily married with a young son, though their sex life has seen better days; Oz (Chris Klein) is a TV sports commentator in a relationship with Mia (Katrina Bowden); Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas ) has been, uh, travelling the globe; and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is, uh, still around.
And, of course, there’s Stifler (Seann William Scott), now an office temp but still the same overzealous fratboy, whom the gang attempts to avoid while back in East Great Falls for their 13-year high school reunion (why 13-year? To synchronize with the release dates of the films.) Stifler finds his old pals, of course; fully reunited, the gang is in for a few days of embarrassment-laced comedy and sexual misadventures before the reunion.
There’s also Jim’s dad (Eugene Levy), who still manages to have several uncomfortable man-to-mans with his 30-year-old son; Stifler’s mom (Jennifer Coolidge), still the ultimate MILF; Heather (Mena Suvari), Oz’s old flame; Vicky (Tara Reid), Kevin’s high school sweetheart; and Jessica (Natasha Lyonne) and Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth), who are trotted out late for cameos.
In fact, every last minor character from the first film is given their due here, right down to the Sherminator (Chris Owen) and MILF Guys #1 (Justin Isfeld) and #2 (John Cho), who feature in one of the film’s most irreverent (and funniest) sequences.
By the end, the self-referential parade has become endearing. While the story here is simply goes through the motions – subplots involving Kevin and Finch feel particularly perfunctory – there’s a relaxed, informal feel to the production that helps keep things light and pleasant and ensures this long-ish film never overstays its welcome.
American Reunion was written directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, better known for their work in the Harold and Kumar series; those films have an edge on this one in terms of laughs, but there’s a heart at work here that series creator Adam Herz has carefully maintained. While approached with comedy, the series’ open discussion of (and reverence for) sex, so rare in an American production, feels warm and honest and makes these films, in many ways, the anti-Shame.
American Reunion doesn’t exactly light up the screen, and anyone unfamiliar with the franchise is advised to steer clear. But for fans of the series (if any still exist), this is the best reunion imaginable.
Also opening this week:
- Mirror, Mirror (showtimes | IMDb), Tarsem Singh’s retelling of the classic Snow White tale, starring Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, and Armie Hammer. Unfortunately, it’s only screening in a Czech-dubbed version.
- Titanic 3D (showtimes | IMDb), a 3D conversion of James Cameron’s record-setting 1997 film that has opened to mixed reviews (about the technology, at least) in the US. Alas, it’s only Czech-dubbed in Prague cinemas.
- Love and Bruises (showtimes | IMDb), a French-Chinese drama from director Ye Lou (Suzhou River). Screening in French & Chinese with Czech subtitles.
- We Have a Pope (showtimes | IMDb), an Italian papal comedy from director Nanni Moretti (The Son’s Room). In Italian with Czech subtitles.
- The Fairy (showtimes | IMDb), a French-Belgian comedy from filmmakers and ex-clowns Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romy. In French (though dialogue won’t be a focus) with Czech subtitles.
- Sleep Tight (showtimes | IMDb), a horror-thriller from director Jaume Balagueró ([REC]). In Spanish with Czech subtitles.