The surprising thing about “American Reunion,” the new “American Pie” movie, is that the sexual subjects bothering its characters manage to keep ticket holders attention on the screen. The predictable thing about “American Reunion” is everything else.
Based on a 1999 movie (and its sequels) about a group of Michigan friends who have stock romantic difficulties, this vaguely comic film reunites all sorts of characters under the direction of Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the guys who gave us the Harold and Kumar drug comedies.
Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari (who can still act), Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, John “Harold” Cho, Natasha Lyonne, Shannon Elizabeth, and even Chris “The Shermanator” Owen are among the familiar faces reunited for this thirteenth year class reunion. They are now adults, but apparently none of them have solved their basic problems.
Stifler (Scott) is a professional temp who tries to party on alone. Jim (Biggs) and Michelle (Hannigan) are married but rarely have sex. Sportscaster and “reality” dance show contestant Oz (Klein) is unhappy dating a sexually wild model. Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is a house husband and architect who may still be in love with his high school love, Victoria (Reid). French New Wave rebel Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) brags about his globe-trotting but has a couple of dark secrets. Jim’s dad (Levy), now a widower, has trouble imagining how he will find companionship.
The movie is actually about the men. The women are around to threaten and attract. One of the female threats takes the teenaged shape of Jim’s next door neighbor girl Tara (Ali Corbin) who invites him to her woodsy birthday party. He and all the boys attend, with Stifler providing most of the motive force. They fight with the teenaged boys. Tara gets drunk. Jim drives her home. She sheds her blouse. And the thirty-year-old fellows must find some way to sneak her in past her “dance t.v.”-loving parents.
That’s the big action scene for this very talky movie. Almost everything is talked through rather than dramatized. Eventually every story has to be ended, quickly, during the episode-ending reunion prom, where every problem is talked into resolution. Or the audience is talked into submission, take your pick.
No development or plot line is a surprise here. Despite the insistent exposure of Miss Corbin’s attractive upper torso, the movie isn’t very sexy. And it certainly isn’t funny. So why didn’t we all get up and leave it?
Some of that inertia has to do with our investment in the series. If you’re attending the—what is it? the fourth? “American Pie” movie, you’ve probably seen the others. You may even have seen the straight-to-home-video second cast “American Pie” movies. So you have already confirmed your interest. You might as well wait out the run of this film at least.
Another reason we continue to watch is that the problems the characters claim to have are problems from real life. We do want to impress our old classmates. We do think about the one that got away. We do wish we could cut loose and drink too much and pat fannies pretty much indiscriminately, though I guess that’s what Fake Paddy’s Day is for.
One doesn’t blame “American Reunion” for failing to show us the way to overcome our worst desires. On the other hand, one may blame the film for not dramatizing anything that happens to its sketchy characters. But, then, what did we expect going in?