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"AMERICAN REUNION"
(2012) (Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Former high school friends reassemble for a reunion and get into all sorts of escapades and misadventures.
PLOT:
Five childhood friends who have since gone their separate ways return to their Michigan hometown for their high-school reunion. Each is at a crossroads, though. Jim (JASON BIGGS) and his wife, Michelle (ALYSON HANNIGAN), have lost the sexual spark in their marriage since the birth of their son two years earlier. Oz (CHRIS KLEIN) has been the most successful of the old gang, having become a cable sports-news broadcaster and celebrity dancing contestant. But he dates a vapid model named Mia (KATRINA BOWDEN) and still pines for his high-school sweetheart, Heather (MENA SUVARI), who is now seeing a successful surgeon named Dr. Ron (JAY HARRINGTON).

Kevin (THOMAS IAN NICHOLAS) is also dealing with lingering feelings for his old girlfriend, Vicky (TARA REID), even though he has since moved on and gotten married. The profane, constantly horny Steve Stifler (SEANN WILLIAM SCOTT) also returns to town, but is hiding the fact that he still lives with his mother (JENNIFER COOLIDGE) and is only finding work as a temp. Finch (EDDIE KAYE THOMAS) has also failed at securing his dream job or finding true love and lies to his friends that he has been a world traveler and adventurer. He becomes attracted to a former overweight classmate named Selena (DANIA RAMIREZ) who has blossomed as a woman

Matters are complicated when Jim tries to help his widowed father (EUGENE LEVY) finally start dating again. Jim is also tempted by his father's neighbor, Kara (ALI KOBRIN), who he used to babysit years earlier and is now a very attractive 18-year-old who wants to lose her virginity to him.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
How much you will enjoy "American Reunion" will depend almost solely on your level of affection for the first three "American Pie" films and their memorable characters. If you are fond of Jim, Oz, Finch, Stifler, Kevin and the gang, you're going to really enjoy this walk down memory lane that has a few turns into the usual sexual hijinks the series has become famous for. If you've outgrown raunchy smut comedies and have simply "moved on" from this sort of flick, you're not going to like this one at all.

Fortunately, I do remember these characters with fondness and it was nice to revisit them again. This is a slight, yet highly enjoyable comedy that is rather effortlessly sweet and nostalgic even as it is delivering on its quota of poop, sperm, sex, and masturbation jokes. This isn't like an Adam Sandler comedy where they heap on sophomoric humor and gross-out gags for 90 minutes, and the thing turns gooey sentimental in the end to try and "make everything OK." There is a good vibe that runs through this whole film.

You'll shake your head with fondness as Jason Biggs' Jim has to sneak a drunken, naked 18-year-old back into her house without her mom and dad (and his wife next door) noticing. You'll grin with fond familiarity as the walking hormone that is still Steve Stifler gets Jim's dad plastered and urges him to "dust off" his uh entire anatomy and enjoy his party to its full extent. And you may be even let out a studio audience "Ahhhhh" as Chris Klein's Oz and Mena Suvari's Heather reunite, and there may just be a chance yet that they will find their way back to each other.

It's this mix of sentimentality and sex-capades that distinguishes this flick and the other "American Pies" from, say, the recent "Project X," which has a blatant disdain for its characters and exists only to see the people onscreen humiliated for cheap laughs. Even if you don't like "American Reunion," I can't see how you won't like the actual characters who are just trying to find love and connect and reconnect with each other.

All concerned reassemble in their small Michigan town for their high school reunion. Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are married with a kid, but have lost that old spark. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is also married, but is worried he'll still have feelings for his old girlfriend Vicky (Tara Reid). Oz (Chris Klein) has become the most successful of the bunch, but is mired in an empty physical relationship with a promiscuous model. Stifler (Seann William Scott) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), meanwhile, both come back to town and lie about their lives now to make themselves appear more successful than they are. In truth, both have been treading water for years and lack professional as well as personal success.

Look, folks. This ain't "The Big Chill." But for what it is, it's pretty darn enjoyable even if the beats of the screenplay are way too familiar. The series no longer has the ability to surprise us with its smutty humor. Wisely, the writers and filmmakers don't try to up the gross-out quotient from the first films. They only endeavor to match it. In my book, all concerned have succeeded here. I give it a solid 6 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed April 3, 2012 / Posted April 6, 2012


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