“American Reunion” Movie Review

     As an audience member for a screening of "American Reunion", you have to go in at the very least wanting an update on these characters lives.  If you identified with them in 1999 with the first film and continued to laugh through "American Wedding", than your in for a treat with this, the fourth film in the series (not counting the three direct to video spins offs involving different characters).  "American Reunion" plays heavily on the nostalgia factor, having the characters constantly referring to scenes in the previous three films.  Pretty normal when you think about it.  Don't we always refer to our past?  For the first time since " American Pie", the entire cast returns and we soon realize none of them have really changed.  Clearly the filmmakers have updated the raunchy factor a bit and portray Jim, Kevin, Oz, Finch, and Stifler in their 30s just as they acted in their teens.

    As we already know, Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are married and now have a two year old son.  They're stuck in a rut sexually and don't seem to have the spark they had earlier in their marriage.  Their 10 year high school reunion is finally planned 3 years late and they make the trip back home with plans to have some alone time.  Of course when they arrive a lot goes wrong.  Jim is always the brunt of these film's most embarrassing moments and "American Reunion" is no exception.  I was pleasantly surprised to find none of the film's funniest moments were in the trailer so I certainly won't be discussing them here.  Though none of these scenes can match the novelty of the original, it's clear they have pushed the envelope in order to compete with fellow modern comedies such as "40 Year Old Virgin" and "The Hangover".

     For this fourth slice of pie, "Harold and Kumar" directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg were brought in for both writing and directing duty.  Compared to those films, this one seems rather tame, but it's clear they were likely told to maintain the sentimental tone of the first three movies.  The story always has Jim getting caught in some rather precarious positions and then feeling better about it by having a heart to heart with his dad.  I think anyone who likes these films would say Eugene Levy is the true anchor and the role of Jim's Dad is one he was born to play.  Same goes for Seann William Scott, who's Stifler is what propels the film from scene to scene. 

     The main characters all have their moments, but I was surprised at how little the female leads were used.  I can't remember the last time I saw Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, and Shannon Elizabeth in a movie, but here they are finally in roles that made all of them famous and they're given nothing to do.  They're merely old flames who are brought up because of the past, but are not given the opportunity to contribute to any of the films funnier moments.  Those all seem to be reserved exclusively for Jim and Stifler, even though Oz really tries in this one. Kind of a waste since you want balance and a female perspective.  Even Michelle is made out to be as frumpy as ever (think Jamie Lee Curtis in the first half of "True Lies") and we all know that's not possible!

     A lot is always made about how people turn out after high school.  Do the popular kids turn out to be the most successful?  Are they better at relationships than the kids who didn't have them because they were too nerdy or too fat? I hope the studio decides to end the "American Pie" series here because what we've gotten with these characters is the full social lifecycle.  We've observed them in high school and their first year of college.  We've watched them get married, have children, and start careers.  We've also seen them involved in some of the most memorable comedic moments captured on film, all while remaining incredibly ordinary.  Bottom line is none of them have changed a bit, and I think we can all see ourselves in these characters and that's where the appeal is with the "Pie" films.  Regardless of what you become in life, the foundation of your personality was built in you teens and your likely to remain the same regardless of the path you take. As I said at the top, if your not invested in these guys, than this is just another sequel.  If your a fan, than it's just all part of the ride which is hopefully now concluded on a high note.  GRADE: B-