May 292012
 

You know what, I’m only 23 yet I’m bloody terrified of my high school reunion already. Not because I haven’t met a wife. Not because I haven’t had a baby. Not because I don’t have a mortgage, and not even because I don’t really have much of a career. No. I’m dreading it because if American Reunion’s anything to go by, it’ll be bloody awful.

The third ‘proper’ sequel in the American Pie franchise gives us a sequel no one was really asking for, with the motley crew of Jim, Oz, Kevin and Finch (Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas and Eddie Kaye Thomas) meeting up again in the build up to their high school reunion, and bumping into tag-along jock Stifler (Seann William Scott, Role Models) on the way. Before the weekend’s out, they will have sorted out their life problems and grown together as friends… again. Or something like that. Jim has to deal with his failing marriage to Michelle (Alyson Hannigan, How I Met Your Mother), Oz has to sort out his crazy current girlfriend and feelings for his ex and the same goes for Kevin. All in all, not a good great set up, but let’s see how we get on.

Plot elements go in and out of a broken window, with American Reunion scraping itself on the broken glass and bleeding plot all over the floor. Jim and Michelle have a toddler son, and considering he was in a reasonable part of the promotion he’s barely seen; you see him for the opening scene, where he has an unspeakably filled sock chucked on his cherub face, and then for a sight gag later on, and that’s it; considering he is the main reason (but no-one’s brave enough to admit it) for Jim and Michelle’s marriage problems, I thought the lad would be in the film a lot more. I almost thought about drawing a road map of everyone’s relations halfway through since all the women look pretty similar

I thought expectations would be handled more than adequately with writers and directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg; given they created the Harold and Kumar franchise, taking on American Reunion should have been like a duck taking to water; instead at nearly two hours long it’s a flabby, bloated, mess with hour one taking forever to get going somewhere only vaguely interesting.

Not surprisingly, with Biggs and William-Scott executive producing, I would have to argue there’s some “executive” meddling here; both Jim and Stiffler get the lion’s share of plot, quality one-lines, and screen time. It’s almost as if everyone else is an afterthought here, not that they were particularly brilliant characters to begin with. In fact, I’d almost say they’re dull and don’t contribute anything at all; the more memorable ones from earlier in the series (like Nadia and The Sherminator) are kept to cameos, leaving us having to put up with dross like Kevin worrying about Vicky again, and… look, I just couldn’t give a flying-fuck about the other “main” members of the lad-gang. There’s only two watchable main people in this film and one of them is a total tool; which says something about caring for these characters doesn’t it?; there’s no real effort to make anyone care about these people at all (in fact, Finch does nothing meaningful in the entire film! His “drama” is so artificial it’s shocking!).

Uncomfortable viewing is made when the gang invade a teen party on a beach. Nothing too wrong with that, but Stifler lusting over girls that aren’t quite 18? Ummm, I’m not a legal-beagle on American law but surely it would be illegal if he hooked up with one of these girls? Also, not a fan at all of them doing tributes to jokes from the older Pies. There’s another sneak in and out of a house gag from 2 (which happened twice in that film come to think of it) and once again Jim has trouble with technology. Actually, I’m sure they’re stealing jokes from Family Guy whilst we’re at it, and when you have to resort to that, the game’s up. American Reunion reeks of lazyness.

The development of Stifler falls flat on it’s face; as you can imagine, he hasn’t changed since high school,he’s the same tool/jock who’s going around giving abuse to everyone, he’s approaching 40 and has a going-nowhere job, and any normal person would obviously shape-up and get their life into gear, but oh no! Not that whacky Stifler! He carries on doing dumb stuff like wrecking the speedboats of teens who diss him (this being an obviously felony, not matter what age you are), and the rest of Jim’s gang have a pop at him before he has to face-up to his failings; yet he continues to carry on the way he is at the end of the movie. So he’s not really learnt anything, he’s just going to keep being the tool he is, but in a job that suits him. Sorry, but for a 30-something man to carry on like that is not healthy. I look forward to his life crumbling apart in the next sequel in the Pie franchise – American Breakdown.

There is one saving grave for Reunion; Jim’s Dad (played by Eugene Levy, The Man). He steals every single second he’s in the film, and eats up the scenery with his wonderful comedic acting; the best moment in the film is Jim getting his dad back on the market after his wife’s passing, and Jim’s attempts to prep him for signing up for a dating website. The man is the equivalent of Ian McKellen putting in an Oscar winning performance, whilst everyone else around him looks like they’ve stepped out of College Drama 101.

Oddly enough, with Levy cranking up his performance, Reunion takes a swing upwards quality wise too. It doesn’t push it into ‘good’ territory, but everything gets involved thick and fast, pacing picks up, and some decent one-liners and sight gags set up a decent finale at the actual reunion. I’ll slap my hand too, because despite me moaning about them retreading old jokes earlier, I actually loved who Stifler cops-off with at the end of the movie, and Levy almost saves the film with a cheeky post credits-scene (I’d like for him to get more work! He’s a funny, funny comedy actor!).

A very surprising turn of form halfway through almost makes this worth recommending (ALMOST), but there are simply too many dross annoyances, and just general bunkness here; leaving it with about the same level of recommendation in the book of good ideas about actually going to your school reunion. Avoid American Reunion until it’s available on DVD and Blu-ray (in fact that goes for both this film, and the real life school reunion you’ll inevitably go to).

Terry Lewis.