CliqueClack Flicks

American Reunion – Save your money and skip this reunion

American Reunion - Theater Review
Release Date: 04/06/2012 - MPAA Rating: R
Clacker Rating: 2 Clacks

The gang is back 10 ... ish years later for their 10 ... ish-th high school reunion. And like many high school reunions, the movie is awkward, unpleasant and kind of sad.

A little backstory — I like the first two American Pie movies for what they are. I actually wrote an article a few months ago where I explored how the first two movies in the series had underlining feminist viewpoints on sex. Essentially, while the four main characters had very close-minded and cliche viewpoints on women and sex at the beginning of the first movie, their actual experiences were completely different. In fact, all four women were either confident in themselves as women or were treated as an equal by their partner … or both. The second movie is similar in that our protagonist Jim still equates manhood with having lots of sex with lots of partners. It’s only when he bonds with his future wife Michelle (who is confident in her own sexuality, by the way) that he realizes his masculinity is not tied to thoughtless sexual conquests and using women as prizes. There’s more to my theory, but the main point is that while it was a sex comedy about a teenager who practices sex on a pie, American Pie and its first sequel both explore what our culture teaches young men about sex. Those two movies are smarter than many people give them credit for.

Now, American Wedding … was just pretty lame. There isn’t really any more lessons for the main four to learn about relationships (Chris Klein’s character isn’t even in the movie), so the main character growth goes to Stifler, the chauvinistic sort-of friend of the group. I guess he learns to be a better person in the movie, but American Wedding just seemed unnecessary. So, when I heard there was going to be a 4th film, I wasn’t particularly enthused. And now that I’ve seen it … it’s the worst of the four.

If you can’t tell from the title, American Reunion is about the characters coming back for their 10 year high school reunion … which should have been in 2009. They try to lampshade this 3 year delay, but that’s a pretty big stretch. Either way, the plotpoints are completely predictable. Chris Klein‘s Oz is an LA big shot with a hot girlfriend, but he starts to remember his feelings for Mena Suvari‘s Heather. Thomas Ian Nicholas‘ Kevin is mocked by his friends for being domesticated by his wife (he watches the Real Housewives with her, that wuss!), so the main running gag with him is that he’s emasculated. And Finch wants a girlfriend. These are all pretty run-of-the-mill plot-lines teetering on boring.

What’s supposed to be the big focus is Jim and Michelle (Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan) losing the spark in their sex life thanks to becoming parents. This would have been fine on its own — and something that I think a lot of the franchise’s long-time fans could relate to as adults — but the writers just had to add a stupid twist to it. Enter Jim’s sexy barely legal neighbor (who they make sure to mention is celebrating her 18th birthday, hint hint). She’s had a crush on Jim for forever and wants him to take her virginity … despite the fact that he’s married and he keeps telling her adamantly no. This whole subplot is cringe-worthy and ultimately unnecessary since we know Jim and Michelle are going to work everything out.

There were far too many scenes that were awkward for the sake of laughs but managed to just not be funny. For example, Jim wakes up in the kitchen after partying with the guys and discovers he is completely naked from the waist down. Michelle and her friend come in while he’s on the other side of the kitchen island and tease him for obviously drinking too much, not realizing that he doesn’t have pants on. Now, the logical thing to do is to just cop to the embarrassing situation and ask them to turn around so you can leave the room. But no, he tries to pretend he’s not naked and ends up exposing himself anyway. I knew exactly where they were going with the joke and it wasn’t funny. And then later we meet a suburban housewife who has a crush on Oz (who’s a sportscaster that went on a DWTS-eque dance competition) and starts grind dancing on him the moment her husband leaves the room … no one acts like that! Awkward situations like this aren’t funny if they’re this forced, and this many similar scenes in the same movie is lazy writing.

But the main reason I found myself grinding my teeth and really hating the viewing experience came down to one single character — Sean William Scott‘s Stifler. I know being rude has been his only character trait for the entire series, and there is certainly room for rude characters in comedy, but he goes from crass and egotistical to wretched and … well I just have a say it, a molester. I mean it, he is constantly groping women, starting in his first scene where we see him at work in a corporate office (he also makes sure to comment on how hot or ugly each of the women are). The trailers showed him manipulating high school girls by saying he loved Twilight and encouraging them to keep drinking. There’s another scene at the beach where he plays what he happily calls, “vagina shark” … I’ll leave that one to your imagination. But the worst part is when the guys find an unconscious high school girl naked except for Jim’s jacket — Stifler tries to cop a feel. You can get arrested for this stuff! There isn’t a scene where he isn’t verbally degrading women or just groping women. Oh wait, except for the scene where he defecated into a cooler, but there weren’t any women in that scene.

I can’t believe I have to say this, but sexual harassment isn’t funny, not even in a sex comedy — they even play up Oz getting raped by his girlfriend as a joke, which was another disturbing moment in this movie. And the ridiculous thing is that the only thing that actually happened in American Wedding was Stifler learning to be a better person … it wasn’t a very good storyline, but it was still the focus of the movie! And now that Stifler is not only just as bad as he was in high school but arguably worse, the 3rd movie is completely pointless. More than that, nothing he does in Reunion is funny and yet he’s in the majority of the scenes. And perhaps worst of all, his friends only roll their eyes at him for most of the film and end up encouraging him at the end by saying, and I quote, “You’re a dick, but you’re our dick!” Just … no.

If Stifler hadn’t been in the movie, it would have been far less nauseating, but it still wouldn’t have been a good movie. The characters just aren’t strong enough to hold up at the 4th movie mark, especially when it’s been 13 years since we met them. And as far the jokes, even without Stifler’s hilarious treatment of women, the humor is just rehashing everything from the other movies. The insanely awkward, embarrassing scenes are essentially just lazy clones of the first movie’s embarrassing moments.

Now, while I hated a lot of this movie, I’ll admit that there were a few small aspects I didn’t mind on their own. Tara Reid did a much better job reprising her role as Vicky than I expected … granted they didn’t give her much to do, but her character actually had dignity. And somehow, despite being the most overused character in the franchise, Jim’s dad was probably the most relatable character in the whole film. He’s become a widower prior to the movie and while Jim’s mom was barely a character in the other films, Eugene Levy has some quiet, sincere moments with Biggs while they’re dealing with his grief that were unexpected. Even a cliched J-Date profile-making montage between the two of them was charming compared to most of the movie.

I originally groaned at the trailers hinting a Jim’s dad/Stifler’s mom hook-up, but yet again it was one of the aspects that surprisingly works. It probably helped that Levy and Jennifer Coolidge have worked together before in Christopher Guest‘s movies. The two characters actually have a really genuine and comfortable conversation about being parents … it’s sort of sweet, even if we have to later endure Eugene Levy’s orgasm face (or just don’t watch the credits).

Unfortunately, these few nuggets of almost good moments were upstaged by everything that’s wrong with this movie, either the sickening or the boring parts. If you like the earlier movies in the franchise, do yourself a favor and just rewatch those. You’ll thank me later.


Photo Credit: Universal

2 Responses to “American Reunion – Save your money and skip this reunion”

April 6, 2012 at 9:59 AM

. . . . .

I’ve skipped all the others, so passing this one by won’t be a chore …

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