‘American Reunion’ should have let tired franchise retire

April 16, 2012

When I was an undergrad living life in my fraternity house, we would occasionally get visits from alumni who would crash the place for the weekend, and it wasn't long before their moments of sweet nostalgia turned into increasingly sad attempts to relive past glories, sinking the whole visit to a pit of creepy, keg-soaked arrested development.

Viewing "American Reunion" is much like one of those visits. At first, it's fun to see some old faces (and some new faces on those old faces), but those wistful reminiscences evaporate the minute those old faces attempt to re-
create those same hijinks more than a decade later.

When "American Pie" emerged on the scene in 1999, there was a familiar narrative (high schoolers attempting to lose their virginity before graduation, meeting with varying degrees of comedic success) that was spiced with a heightened level of raunch. Its mind was comfortably in the gutter, but its heart was on its sleeve. Its box-office success birthed two cinematic sequels, and, because there was a cash cow with the brand, a slew of direct-to-video stepchildren were added to the mix. Not one was able to capture the bottled lightning of the original, and the cast and laughs diminished greatly as the series went on. "American Reunion" promised to change tack, with pretty much the entire cast returning, even minor characters who we barely remembered from the first film. The East Great Falls class of 1999 is back in town for the big reunion, including:

• Former pastry poker Jim (played by Jason Biggs) and creative flautist Michelle (played by Alyson Hannigan), who are still married but have sexually stalled since the birth of their son.

• Kevin (played by Thomas Ian Nichols), who is now a happily married househusband who still holds a fire for first love Vicky (played by Tara Reid).

• Wiffle-ball-headed jock Oz (played by Chris Klein), who's a sports anchor hanging on to celebrity relevance, and who still holds a fire for first love Heather (played by Mena Suvari).

• The cultured Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), arriving with a backpack full of globe-trotting tales, who still holds a fire for first love Stifler's Mom (played by Jennifer Coolidge).

• And Stifler (Sean William Scott) himself, who seems to have barely moved on from high school, mentally and physically, working as a bottom-feeding temp and still operating like a human phallus.

Instead of perhaps demonstrating how the characters comedically handle life as adults, directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (creators of the "Harold & Kumar" franchise) decide instead to place them in the exact same school-age shenanigans, which are far less amusing featuring adults and can be seen coming from a space shuttle.

The film's pacing also feels wildly off, with some scenes sputtering on way longer than they should, while others abruptly end before what feels like the big payoff. And the overall stench of desperation can be felt throughout (do we really buy that, in the middle of a packed party, Michelle and Jim will slip into a room and dress up in full bondage gear?).

Like last year's "Scream 4," "Reunion" feels like a completely unnecessary coda to a franchise that should have remained content that it scored on the first date. Now, it feels like that date who just can't get the hint that what we once had was nice, but it really is time to let go and move on. It's not us, "American Pie." It's you.