Clichéd American Reunion disappoints

The gang's all here, but something still feels off.

American Reunion dwells on the memory of its characters’ pasts, in the process acknowledging that those times were funnier than what is currently being offered on screen. Across the board — from character arcs to jokes to storyline — Reunion is full of clichés, and gets laughs only out of shock value (i.e., full-frontal male nudity in the first 15 minutes) rather than from its characters or plot.

The setup is simple: Jim (Jason Biggs), Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), Stifler (Sean William Scott), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Finch (also known endearingly as “shitbrick,” played by Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Oz (Chris Klein, returning for this installment after being absent from the last) return to their old stomping grounds for a high school reunion. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff.

Jim and Michelle, now parents, have a sex life that entails pleasuring themselves in separate rooms. Stifler works at a rich corporation, but as a lowly, disrespected temp. As for the rest: Kevin is happily married, Finch’s old pals dub him “the most interesting man in the world,” and Oz is pseudo-famous because of his gig as a sports talk show host and an appearance on a celebrity dance show.

Once back in town, the expected love stories flare up. Jim’s next door neighbor (Ali Cobrin), the girl he used to babysit, is now hot and legal. (This obviously leads to his temptation to sleep with her, something Stifler vigorously encourages him to do — a portion of the film that’s as creepy as it is funny.) Both Kevin and Oz’s first love interests (Tara Reid and Mena Suvari, both still pretending to act) are in town for the reunion as well, and complicate emotions. And in a rather depressing side story, we find out Jim’s dad (Eugene Levy) has been a widower for three years. Good thing Stifler’s mom (Jennifer Coolidge) is nearby to ease all sexual frustrations.

In 1999 and the early 2000s, these characters were caricatures of reality. In 2012 they come off as caricatures of unreality. In no world, even a fictional one, would these people do or say the things they do and say. Maybe it’s because they’re adults now. Even still, though, something feels off.

There was a sort of absurd relatability to the horny and naïve high schoolers in the first two American Pies. I’d even throw American Wedding into the mix, as the third installment was more outrageous but on par with its predecessors. Sadly, like The Hangover Part 2, Reunion’s script tries taking the memorable characteristics and qualities of its characters and extrapolating that to ridiculous proportions. It’s an abuse of what the audience has come to expect from the series. I imagine the writer/director duo Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (unsurprisingly neither of whom were involved in the series prior to Reunion) sitting down to write the script, and limiting themselves by thinking things like “Stifler hasn’t spoken in this scene yet, what would he say here?” instead of actually trying to understand the characters.

Reunion is obviously aimed at members of the younger generation and fans of the franchise in general, but I count myself as a member of both categories and still found little enjoyment. Some folks just never learn that class reunions don’t always turn out well.

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