It’s hard for me to think of the ’90s as something to be nostalgic about. I mean, wasn’t the ’90s just a few years ago? Seriously, it’s only been, like … Holy shit: 13 years! I have nieces and nephews that are younger than that! HOLY SHIT, THE COUSINS I GREW UP WITH ARE HAVING KIDS NOW!
It’s that sobering reality that washes over the characters in the new film “American Reunion,” the fourth sequel in the series (yes, I said fourth. I don’t count that straight-to-DVD garbage like “Band Camp” and “The Naked Mile,” because apparently I’m depressing enough to be an “American Pie” purest). The characters all deal with growing up, taking on new responsibilities and letting go of the past. The change is easier for some more so than others, but everyone has undergone some kind of positive growth by the end of the film.
“American Reunion” picks up 13 years after the characters’ graduation in — I still can’t believe it’s been so long — 1999. We see where they are in their lives: Jim (Jason Biggs) is living a sexless marriage with his band-camp wife, Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) and young son. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is now married, and feels emasculated as a stay-at-home husband forced to watch “Desperate Housewives” and reality shows. Oz (Chris Klein) is now a semi-successful TV sports announcer who is haunted by a brief stint on a “Dancing with the Stars”-esque reality show, where he was defeated by Gilbert Gottfried (one of the biggest laughs in the film). Only Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) seems to have lived out his dreams as a cosmopolitan traveler, although he hides a dark secret. Finally, Stifler (Seann William Scott) spends his time as a lowly temp, trying to keep living the party lifestyle and has the hardest time giving up his past life.
The girls of “American Pie,” however, don’t get as much characterization. Some characters are simply regulated to a cameo, such as Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) or Jessica (Natasha Lyonne) (who becomes a quick, cheap and dated lesbian stereotype).
Even the main girls, such as Vicky (Tara Reid) are only given a few scenes and a disappointing story arc that doesn’t amount to much. Michelle, while a focal point for some of the film’s biggest laughs (like the bath scene in the trailer), is mainly regulated to background business and off-screen pining. Only Heather (Mena Suvari) gets any real character meat to chew on, though she, too, lacks enough screen time. Her re-kindled romance with Oz comes off as surprisingly sweet, despite the lack of screen time or devotion to reality the film gives.
Overall, I really enjoyed “American Reunion,” but I’m not sure this means it was a good film. While I was only in elementary school when the first film came out, I do remember it. My fellow classmates and I watched it and quoted it. To a certain extent I feel like I’ve grown up with it.
My perception of the film is colored by the fact that I am getting older and am on the brink of some of the big life changes that many of these characters have gone through. While I did enjoy it, I wonder how much of that is based purely on nostalgia’s sake alone.
Don’t get me wrong: This is a solid film with some good laugh-out-loud moments (such as the scene where they had to sneak a drunk 18-year old back into her house while her parents are there, a drunk and high Jim’s dad, played by Eugene Levy or the aforementioned Gilbert Godfrey bit). But I am not sure how well “American Reunion” stacks up as a stand-alone film once divorced from the series or my own nostalgia.
The film is also definitely flawed. As in any ensemble, some characters get left out. Additionally, there are some set-ups that are just way too obvious. The most egregious set-up is a scene at Stifler’s party where Jim and Michelle try to have sex, and she forces Jim to wear an over-the-top S&M bondage suit that just screams “hijinks will ensue” (said hijinks did not feel organic in any way). There was also Finch’s subplot about his secret life that comes off as a bit too serious for the film, especially when it is first revealed.
Overall, if you are a fan of the “American Pie” series, I would suggest you check this movie out. It’s great seeing the old cast back and where these characters are in their lives. There are some really funny moments, and also some very tender moments. However, if you’re not a fan, I don’t think this film will convert you. Especially since you see Jason Bigg’s dick at one point.