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Thursday, July 24, 2014

American Reunion / ** (R)

Posted Monday, April 23, 2012, at 8:15 PM

(Photo)
Thomas Ian Nicholas, Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Chris Klein, and Eddie Kaye Thomas reunite for a fourth film of debauchery in "American Reunion".
Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. Written by Hurwitz and Schlossberg. Based on characters created by Adam Herz. Running time: 113 min. Rated R (for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, language, brief drug use and teen drinking).

Last year I was asked to contribute to a TODAY.com article about the rising popularity of R-rated raunchy comedies. The primary point I contributed was that the raunchy comedy was hardly a new phenomenon in Hollywood. So,13 years after the release of one of the raunchiest and most popular comedies of the 90s, comes the fourth movie in the franchise to prove my point. Certainly, the raunchy comedy had to hold some weight in Hollywood before "The Hangover" and "Bridesmaids" in order to spawn a four-movie franchise over the course of 13 years.

"American Pie" may be the first raunchy franchise to survive a nine-year gap between movies, however. "American Reunion" uses that high school tradition of the class reunion as an excuse to assemble the entire cast from the original movie for another sextacular adventure. Forget the fact that it's been thirteen years, rather than ten since they graduated high school. So the ten-year reunion is a couple of years late. That happens, right? Well, it does when MILF Guy # 2 organizes your high school reunion. It strikes me as more than a bit gracious that John Cho, best known as Harold from the "Harold and Kumar" franchise, would reprise his very minor role throughout all four of the "American Pie" movies.

As these types of movies typically go, we are reintroduced to the five main players in their adult lives, which haven't necessarily played out the way they had imagined. Our pie humping hero, Jim (Jason Biggs, "Mad Love"), is still married to Michelle (Alyson Hannigan, "How I Met Your Mother"), but since their baby was born, almost two years ago, their sexual clocks have been out of sync. Ox (Chris Klein, "American Dreamz") is a successful sports commentator, who recently participated in a "Dancing with the Stars" type of reality competition show. His girlfriend (Katrina Bowden, "30 Rock") is the party girl he's realizing he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life with.

Stifler (Seann William Scott, "Cop Out") is still a jerk, but he's a small fish in his boss's bowl at work. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) has become a stay at home husband, whose life resembles the wife's of the couple. Only Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas, "'Til Death") seems to have lived the life expected of him. Jim's Dad (Eugene Levy, "Night at the Museum") is having trouble getting back into the swing of things since his wife's death. And, Stifler's Mom (Jennifer Coolidge, "The Secret Life of the American Teenager") is... well, still a MILF.

In the tradition of the series, "American Reunion" starts right off testing its audience's tolerance for sexual perversity and awkward situations. There's an incident involving a see through frying pan cover and Jim's unmentionables, which finds them more than mentioned. Jim also discovers that the girl he used to babysit (Ali Corbin) has harbored a crush on him for years. Of course, she's a teenager who wears skimpy clothing now. Many of these introductory moments, though, have the feel of inappropriateness to them. It's one thing to place teenagers into these sexually awkward situations, but when adults are involved in these same situations with teenagers it makes for more discomfort than laughs.

The film eventually finds its stride by pushing past the discomfort with a situation with the girl that is in no way Jim's fault, yet puts him in a cleverly compromising position. The adult version of the Stifler party is also uniquely original in the way that the only person Stifler can find willing to party the way they did in high school is Jim's Dad. There's a coupling that takes place at the Stifler's that is as inevitable as it is welcome. This leads to a credit cookie that happens early on in the credits and must not be missed.

The "American Pie" franchise has been incredibly consistent in its ability to please. It has always held a kind of innocent perversity to it. While "American Reunion" feels like it's pushing a little too hard in its first twenty minutes, it finds the same wholesome debauchery that all the previous films celebrated. I'm not sure how well it will play to audiences that are new to the franchise, however. It is awfully self-referential. But, for those yearning to reconnect with the "American Pie" characters a little more than a decade later, it will please.

"American Reunion" opens at Marshall Cinema Friday, April 27.

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A Penny in the Well
ANDREW D. WELLS
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Andrew is a professionally trained actor and stage director. He was a reporter for the daily newspaper The Marshall Democrat News. He has been critiquing film since Mr. Lucas released the first of his "Star Wars" prequels in 1999. His reviews can also be seen at his blog site.
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