Thursday, April 5, 2012

New Release Review: American Reunion (Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, 2012)

American Pie is back. It is actually the eighth installment in the American Pie film series (how did that happen?) but only the fourth in the original series, which culminated in American Wedding (2003). American Reunion is written and directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay) and the premise is to once again round up the old gang in East Great Falls for their 13-year High School Reunion.


Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs), Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Chris ‘Oz’ Ostreicher (Chris Klein) and Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) decide to return home a few days before to give themselves plenty of time to catch up and allow some freedom from their daily lives, and hopefully from the presence of Stifler (Seann William Scott), who still lives there. Of course, after no time at all Stifler turns up, and ecstatic to see his old buddies, proposes they party like it is 1999, and find the spirit of their youth. While die-hard fans will relish the gang’s return, and I’d like to say that the film re-captures the classic gross-out antics of 1999’s American Pie, but it honestly never comes close.

Jim and his wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) have recently hit a rut with their chemistry and now have a little one to look after. They envision this trip as a welcome chance to spice up their sex life. Kevin is also married and has found steady work as an architect, while Oz is a Sportscaster and infamous for his appearance on a Celebrity Dance-off reality show (and one of the film’s funniest moments is learning who he loses to). The mysterious Finch arrives on a motorcycle and shares stories of exotic global quests.


Over the course of the weekend, they all meet their match with temptation and, as expected, most of their endeavours end in humiliation. Jim catches the eye of his neighbour, once a youngster he used to babysit, and now a desirable young woman who is conveniently celebrating her 18th birthday that weekend, while Oz and Kevin find they still have complex feelings for their old flames, Heather (Mena Suvari) and Vicky (Tara Reid), who are also back in town for the reunion. Of course, Jim’s father Noah (Eugene Levy), and Stifler’s Mom (Jennifer Coolidge), reprise their infamous roles.

The main problem with American Reunion is that it is extremely lazy. The filmmakers seem to be content with relying purely on nostalgia to fuel this film – hoping that simply having the gang back together is enough to scrape by, despite only supplying scarcely intermittent laughs. Having enjoyed the first film, it was great to see them all catching up, but this initial warm feeling soon wore off. The jokes and the comedic set pieces are lame and obnoxious, the treatment of women in this film is nothing short of disgraceful, the performances (from everyone, except Seann William Scott and Eugene Levy, really) are laughably poor, the film is timed terribly, labouring under dull conversations between the characters which attempt to infuse some life lessons and heart into the story, but instead only fuel one's growing impatience. 


A lot of these stars have not really had many roles apart from the American Pie films, and you can tell that a lot of them are dusting off their acting caps. Biggs, stammering his way through several awkward moments, is as foolish as ever, but Chris Klein’s ridiculous delivery, Alyson Hannigan’s over-expression, and Tara Reid’s non-expression and strange awkwardness, are just too distracting.

The film is half-hearted. The only character whose arc is effectively written is Stifler, and his plight is surprisingly the most moving. That is until his story suffers from the save contrivances as everyone else’s. But none of the other arcs are remotely believable, nor interesting. Kevin has always been a boring character, and he is sidelined on the night of the beach party while his friends are out and about messing around. The excuse is a pretty terrible one, but it serves as a way to give his character some conflict. The screenplay does a clunky job balancing each of these character’s arcs.

The friends are in East Great Falls a day too long, it is as simple as that. Almost everything that happens on their first day has no purpose and ultimately stretches the running time beyond a desirable length. There is a horrible feeling that hit me during this film. I envisioned it wrapping up – and I had actually forgotten all about the arranged reunion - because there was a party at Stifler’s house and I just assumed it had been selected as the location of choice to culminate this mess. Then I realized, when the characters wake the morning after the party, that this was actually the day of the reunion (and this is at least 90 minutes in, mind you), and that there was still a great deal more to ordeal.


Why Biggs had to be discovered wearing no pants in his kitchen (and this is never explained) is beyond me. I guess they wanted to get a full-frontal shot in there to shock the audience. Surely they could have come up with some smarter comedy set pieces than these ones. Okay, Stifler shitting in some young punks’ drink cooler was actually pretty funny, as were some of the references to the change of Millennium – but honestly, dragging a half naked drunk girl around and attempting to sneak her back into her room without her parents noticing, was a pretty vile centerpiece. Then there is the generic front lawn punch-up at the party. There are countless scenes that feel out-of-place, and a lot of the jokes, even for a raunchy comedy like this, are in poor taste. They are obvious, and lame – and there is often no punch line. We sit there thinking that very little in the scene makes any sense and desperately hoping that it is leading into something much funnier, but it just…doesn’t. A couple of times, perhaps, but not enough.

American: Reunion tries to invoke a sense of nostalgia by pumping some 90’s tunes and trying to appeal to the audience of males who were once teenagers and hired out American Pie in secret and hoped that their parents wouldn’t catch them watching it. Sadly, I fear that audience has now outgrown the idiocy of this dwindling franchise. For everyone else, they will not only be disappointed by the lack of laughs, but will desire their time and money back.


My Rating: ★ (D-)

19 comments:

  1. Loved it personally! Will be interesting to see how it's received, I thought it was well done and plenty of laughs. Nostalgia of the original American Pie was great.

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed it, Alex. Many seemed to be. I thought the initial nostalgia was fun - but once we discover that these characters are now really boring, and are being given nothing of interesting to do, this novelty wears off. They float around town crossing paths with the new generation and ending up acting like teenagers again themselves. I also thought it was wayyy too long. Like 20-30 minutes.

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  2. It strikes me that the most remarkable thing about the series isn't that it's up to its 8th installment, but that it's gone back to theatrical release after four straight-to-video productions. I can't say I'm even remotely surprised that it appears to be shit.

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    1. Yes, that is interesting. The last four have been completely removed from those first three films I think. What I found remarkable was that the original directors and writers didn't even come back. It is made by the guys who wrote and wrote/directed the two Harold and Kumar films. It all spelt failure. How right we were.

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  3. Wow... the one word that I really wanted to avoid. Nostalgia. Like the times back then were any good though it's still better than now.

    The unfortunate thing about the American Pie films for me was that, although they were entertaining and had some heart, it never reflected my high school experience. In fact, I was pretty much part of the social outcasts in school that hated everything and everyone. There is no chance in hell I will ever go to my high school reunion.

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    1. I'm not sure who this film is for. The nostalgia might work on people aged 22-30, because they were teenagers when the first film came to the screen and became a hit on VCR and DVD. But for a younger generation who didn't grow up with the films, they would just be hoping for crude laughs and slapstick. It doesn't serve up them. The nostalgia angle works for a while - then about a third of the way in, you realise you don't care what happens to these characters anymore. It is HORRIBLY paced, and uneven, jumping between the characters gross immaturity, and an attempt at a heartfelt life lesson often in the same scene. Ridiculous.

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  4. "one of the film’s funniest moments is learning who he loses to"

    Gaaaah! Now I almost want to see this to get the answer to this question!

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    1. Some critic spoiled it for me and... oh boy.

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    2. Oh no! Damn. It isn't worth seeing the film purely for that reason, but it made an unbearably stupid scene somewhat funnier than it deserved to be.

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  5. Disappointing! I'm hoping that the nostalgia factor will get me through. But perhaps I'll just go in expecting crap and then be surprised. I probably haven't grown up much since the original three so perhaps I'll fare better with some of the lamer jokes!

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    1. I went in with pretty low expectations. I understand what the writers are trying to do, but when it is pulled off this poorly, the experience becomes trying for anyone not willing to go with it.

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  6. Great review! I never liked the series, but it had few funny moments, didn't know the new one is out, it's a bit odd, since the series doesn't seem to be that popular anymore.

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    1. Thanks for reading. Look, I have seen the first film probably 4/5 times (and it is pretty good) and the other two at least once. I grew up with the films, and for the most part enjoyed them. I didn't ask for this, and I don't think many were expecting it. They should have left it in the ideas box.

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  7. I missed the screening of the film, due to leaving for Chicago for spring break. I've heard some positive things about it - in particular it keeps its sweetness intact, albeit the crude and raunchy humor.

    Sad to see you didn't enjoy it. As someone who has seen all of the film (except for AMERICAN WEDDING), I'm not so much looking forward to catching this film, as I am ready to just, you know, get it over with.

    Lets hope I enjoy it more than you.

    ~ Sam

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    1. In my opinion they could not have made a worse film out of this idea. I was very very bored. Have a great time in Chicago; I hope you enjoy it more than myself.

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  8. YES! Love this review. We are, again, in complete agreement. Lazy and half-hearted is putting it kindly, but yeah, this movie was a complete bore so in love with itself that it just made me sick. My one qualm with your review is that you mentioned the full frontal scene, which I somehow had managed to forget all about. At least you brought it up as a means of bashing the flick haha!

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    1. That whole scene just made no sense at all. Why was it there?

      Yeah, I was so bored, man. I hated the fact that it relied on simply having everyone back together - but provided none of the charm, heart or even laughs of the original film. I wonder if American Pie even holds up now. I haven't seen it for years and years, but I used to like it a lot.

      Glad we agree on this one. There's no doubt about it is there? It is an awful film.

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    2. I was wondering if the original holds up as well. I too haven't seen it in years, but after watching this, I have no desire to revisit it.

      You'd think that critics would've crushed this flick, but it got (shockingly) decent reviews. I don't get it.

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