Ric Roman Waugh, 2013
"Morning, co-workers and cock-jerkers!"
A world in which 21 Jump Street exists may not have room for the American Pie franchise. It’s hard to get far with gross-out money shots these days, and mainstream comedy has grown so self-aware that while the first American Pie film may have been my generation’s Animal House, I get the sense that the current crop of teens don’t need or want their own. And those of us who actually grew up on American Pie seem perfectly happy devouring the shrewder work of Apatow, McKay, and the like.
Or maybe I’m just in a lousy mood because American Reunion, the Pie franchise’s zombie-like lurch from the grave nine years after American Wedding, is so brutally terrible. Aimed squarely and almost exclusively at those nostalgic for Jim, Oz, Kevin, Finch, and Stifler in their pie-fucking heyday, the film is an interminable parade of lazy callbacks. Look, there’s Stifler (Sean William Scott), still a horndog asshole, now plodding through a menial office job. And Jim (Jason Biggs) is still a slightly bumbling nice guy, now a little slack-jawed and paunchy, still having awkward “talks” with his dad (Eugene Levy), his sex life on the rocks after the birth of his son. And Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), who – oh, I don’t even know – he’s married now but still pining after Tara Reid, I guess. (Reid truly looks like a reanimated corpse.) And they’re all headed to their high school reunion, which means that all the minor players (Sherman! Nadia! The MILF guys!) get to take their perfunctory bows.
The movie is 115 minutes long, and it’s not funny. It’s just not. There’s no plot or comic hook beyond having these characters appear on screen a decade older. The screenwriters, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, simply rehash the stuff that worked 10 years ago, but can’t recreate its charm. The only character that seems to have had the benefit of a moment’s thought from the screenwriters is Oz (Klein), who is now an oily, obnoxious sports anchor, shouting the nightly sign-off “Play on, playa!” and trying to live down in an embarrassing appearance on a celebrity dance reality show. But that doesn’t go anywhere remotely clever either. Oz’s big scene is a truly embarrassing teary reunion with his old flame Heather, played by Mena Suvari, while his new girlfriend gets slut-shamed.
Maybe most distressing is how retrograde the film feels. American Wedding had the lovely scene where Stifler does a dance-off at a gay bar. American Reunion is wall-to-wall gay panic jokes. Overweight people and women who enjoy sex are mocked mercilessly. Stifler triumphantly gets revenge on his boss by informing him that though he may be rich, “you’re still a nerd, and I can still kick your ass.” Great.
No doubt there’s an audience for another edition of this hugely popular property, but I can’t imagine they’ll end up happy with American Reunion. It’s so shapeless, so witless and cheap and offensive. It’s strictly dominated by so many better recent films. There’s another comedy in theaters now, a hilarious and profound one, about going back to high school and discovering the eerie disconnect between your generation and the next. It’s called 21 Jump Street, and you should go see it.
-- Eugene Novikov
|Starring:||Eddie Kaye Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, John Cho, Jennifer Coolidge, Mena Suvari, Seann William Scott, Eugene Levy, Chris Klein, Jason Biggs|
|Directed by:||Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg|
|Screenwriters:||Hayden Schlossberg, Jon Hurwitz|