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‘American Reunion’ brings new life to an old favorite

By Gordy Stillman

Section: Arts

April 20, 2012

It has been a long time since the last good “American Pie” movie. Plenty of people, for good reason, ignore the straight-to-DVD releases under the “American Pie Presents” banner. Even though “Beta House” had a few funny moments, and they all featured Eugene Levy as Jim’s dad, Noah Levenstein, none of the newer films compared to the original trilogy. At the very least, “American Reunion” proves that the formula for a funny “American Pie” movie is not as simple as having Eugene Levy, a character named Stifler and a version of the song “Laid” played at some point.

All three of the original films had their own story that flowed from one to the next. In “American Pie” it was about four friends wanting to lose their virginity before graduating from high school. With the second movie the plot centered on their summer after freshman year, trying to have fun in addition to maintaining their friendship. In the final movie, “American Wedding” the gang gets back together because one of them is getting married.

“American Reunion” takes place 13 years after the first movie. It includes everyone that the audience might remember returning to East Great Falls Michigan for their first High School Reunion; apparently someone dropped the ball on the 10-year reunion. Unlike “American Wedding,” the last film in the main series, everyone memorable from the first movie returns for the reunion—even the characters that skipped out on the wedding.

At this point, Jim (Jason Biggs) is a corporate drone, and has a two-year-old son with his wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan). Jim’s mother passed away three years earlier, and Jim and Michelle are struggling in their relationship.

Another “American Pie” favorite, Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), mostly works out of his house and is married to a woman he loves, but eagerly looks forward to reuniting with his friends and spending some time away from watching shows like “Real Housewives.” Oz (Chris Klein) is a football broadcaster for a second-rate copy of ESPN, lives in L.A. and even went on a season of the movie’s version of “Dancing with the Stars.” In the intervening years he and his girlfriend Heather (Mena Suvari) broke up because he was moving to L.A. and she was staying in Michigan for medical school. Stifler (Sean William Scott) is an office temp working for someone that treats Stifler like Stifler treats other people. Last but not least, like always, Finch appears to have been spending his time doing his best to live the life of “the most interesting man in the world.”

The plot centers on the three days leading to the reunion and the reunion itself. For Jim, most of the time involves things getting in the way of talking with Michelle and fixing the problems in their relationship. For example, on day one, the four friends run into Stifler and they hang out. Stifler gets the group drunk and the rest of the night is a blur. On day two, Jim and friends find themselves having to deal with the annoying high school students that hang out where they used to hang out.

I was able to anticipate many of the plot points but, in this case, it really was not a problem. While predictability can be a downside, the anticipated parts were done well and featured the occasional twist. For example, two characters unexpectedly began dating. Additionally, the traditional end of the movie hook-up between a member of the group and an older woman was both predictable and, at the same time, very entertaining, paired with the reunion of the “MILF Guys.”

Quite simply everyone worth remembering from the original movie is back and no one appears just for the sake of appearance. Even Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth), while only having a one-scene cameo, appears at the one moment where doing so would be funniest. Additionally, all of the characters that were only in the first two—like Nadia, Vicky (Tara Reid), etc.—are integrated back into the story in a fitting way.

In addition to the nostalgic characters, the movie also balances nostalgic music with current songs. Aside from simple jokes, like referring to music from the mid-’90s as “classic rock,” the music only served to enhance the memories of what made the original films great and why this movie was so good compared to the direct-to-DVD films that have been released over the last seven years.

If you’re looking for an award-winning film, you’re in the wrong place. But if you are looking for a funny movie that will leave you laughing, balance the expected with unexpected and have a nostalgic element to it, then “American Reunion” hits the spot. The plot is plausible, the jokes are well done and it exceeds expectations for a sequel so long after the last theatrical film.

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