Every year, Appellate Judge Tom Becker goes abroad with his obnoxious, jingoistic tourist friends. It's his Ugly American Reunion.
Save the best piece for last.
Somehow, I doubt that this is the last we'll be seeing of the American Pie gang.
The original, of course, was a low-budget teen sex comedy with enough outrageousness that it went on to gross a fortune and become a classic. It spawned some legitimate—and profitable—sequels, as well as a few direct-to-home-video cash grabs.
From a purely business standpoint, one thing that makes the Pie franchise so desirable is that the audience is growing up with the characters, and 13 years later, they're still a sought-after demographic.
So, the teens who watched the Pie kids fumble through sexual exploration while they themselves were sexually fumbling were also on board when the Pie-ers went to college a couple of years later. A couple of years after that, more than a few in the audience could likely relate to the notion of an American Wedding.
And now, they're all in their 30s—Jim, Michelle, Kevin, Oz, Finch, Vicky, Heather, Jessica, and of course, Stifler. Looks like it's time for an American Reunion.
Facts of the Case
It's reunion time for the East Great Falls High Class of '99—the 13-year reunion, to be exact (as Kevin (Thomas Ian Nichol, The Rules of Attraction) points out, they missed the 10 by a couple of years). The whole gang's attending, but their baggage includes more than a few suitcases.
Oz (Chris Klein, Full Count) is in L.A., living the dream as a sports commentator with a beautiful, vacuous model girlfriend.
Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas, Freddy Got Fingered) has become a man of mystery—no one seems to know what's happened to him or if he'll show. Well, he does show—on a motorcycle, filled with stories of adventures he's had during his world travels.
And, of course, there's Stifler (Seann William Scott, Role Models, whom the guys think of fondly—more fondly from a distance. While everyone else has grown up and moved on, Stifler is still Stifler, and the now-settled 30-somethings are a little leery of reconnecting with their old Peter Pan with an Erection buddy.
But reconnect they do—it wouldn't be a proper American Reunion without Stifler high jinx. Along the way, they reconnect with a few other people from their pasts, revisit some old embarrassments, and rediscover that sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I wasn't expecting much from American Reunion; I figured it would just be another "guys gone wild" film like The Hangover with the Pie label there to attract the built-in audience of the series.
In a way, I was right. After all, the shock value of raunchy guy humor has been worn to a nub in the decade-and-change since Pie I. And the first Pie succeeded not only because it was outrageous, but because it was endearing—a rare blend of sleaze and sentiment offering up kids who, at their core, were not much different from most kids.
If American Reunion doesn't exactly recapture that lightning-in-a-bottle moment, it still contains enough effectively gross sequences and off-the-wall humor mixed with a bits of charm and nostalgia to make a better-than-average continuation of the story.
American Reunion doesn't contain the kind of laugh-out-loud shock stuff that made the first film so memorable. There's actually very little in the way of sex and barely any nudity, though there's still enough gross-funny stuff to keep fans happy. Plus, it's just flat-out funny. We know these characters so well, that a lot of it is like watching your friends get goofed on, and Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who wrote and directed this (and also wrote the Harold and Kumar films) know how to keep things absurdly ridiculous without going too far over the top.
It's also a natural progression for characters we've come to know. They started out as basically nice kids, and they've grown into basically nice adults. Jim, in particular is facing the terrible irony that we all face at some point in our maturation: that despite his best efforts, he is, in fact, turning into his parents. But since his father—now widowed—is portrayed by the great Eugene Levy (A Mighty Wind), it's not so terrible a fate.
Mostly, American Reunion is comfortable fun, a reunion of sorts for fans of the series and a chance to catch up with some familiar faces. It relentlessly references the older films but doesn't play as a tribute or rehash. It's funny watching the characters commenting on current teens—"Were we really like that?"—and then slipping into some idiotic mayhem that suggests, on some level at least, a part of them will always be "like that."
While the guys, naturally, are front and center, female Pie-ers Heather (Mena Suavi, Factory Girl) and Vicky (Tara Reid, The Big Lebowski) have significant roles; plus, the ending offers a satisfying and welcome bit of irony for those who've stuck with the series.
Despite the nine-year lag (more for Klein and Reid, who skipped American Wedding), the actors slip easily back into these roles like a pair of well-worn jeans. Most memorable, naturally, is Scott's hilariously inappropriate Stifler. Scott's being doing this role and variations on it for what seems his entire career, but somehow, he keeps it fresh. There's nothing rote about his performance; the actor seems to be having as much fun playing this part as the character has when he's, say, giving wild comeuppance to some obnoxious teen boys who, a few years earlier, could have been him. As Jim's newly single father, Levy is a riot, getting one of the funniest moments in the film in a short segment during the closing credits.
And lest you forget that this is all of a piece, the closing credits offers snapshots from the earlier three films as well as this one, ending on weirdly warm "family album" note.
Domestically, American Reunion didn't do nearly as well as the first three Pie films (though its overseas grosses put it well in the black). It's hitting home video a mere three months after its theatrical release.
The Blu-ray offers both the R-rated theatrical version and an Unrated cut that runs about a minute longer. As you'd expect from a new film, the tech here looks and sounds very good. The Blu-ray image is a solid one, offering nice detail and vivid colors, and the DTS Surround audio track sounds fine. The theatrical version also offers an English descriptive track.
Universal has given American Reunion (Blu-ray) a full slate of supplements, many of which are Blu-ray exclusives.
• There's a feature-length Commentary with Hurwitz and Schlossberg, which is overall a pretty interesting listen.
• American Reunion Yearbook: If you can get past the fact that this serves as a marketing tool for the first three Pies, this interactive featurette is a very cool supplement. Set up like a yearbook page, with photos of 13 of cast members, you click on someone's picture and go to a page about that character, with pictures, quotes, and clips. If you need a refresher on who did what when, this is a fun way to catch up (BD Only).
• On The "Out of Control" Track, the actors pop up during various scenes to talk about the action and offer trivia; it's alright, but not as much fun as it sounds, as the pop-ups are sporadic and kind of meaningless, and subtitles and audio options are disabled (BD Only).
• Dancing with the Oz: As a low-level celebrity, Klein's Oz appears on a Dancing with the Stars-type program; this featurette tells about his training for the dance sequence and includes alternate takes (BD Only).
• The Best of Biggs: Hanging Out with Jason B. is a little tribute piece to Biggs (BD Only).
• Lake Bake focuses on a lengthy scene shot at a lake (BD Only).
• American Gonad-iators: The Fight Scene takes a look at—what else?—a fight scene (BD Only).
• Ouch! My Balls examines a painful pastime that the male actors engaged in while on set.
• The "Reunion" Reunion: Relaunching the Series: This "behind-the-scenes" featurette never specifically talks about this as a "relaunch," but who's kidding who?
• Jim's Dad is fun with Eugene Levy.
There are also extended scenes, deleted scenes, and alternate takes, a gag reel, plus previews for other Universal films (including a lengthy one for the Pie series, positioning it as essential nostalgia), along with a DVD, instructions for a digital download, and BD Live.
At the end of the film, the guys toast, and Jim proposes, "We should do this every year." If he's referring to sequels, an annual visit would probably mean more D2DVD crap like American Pie Presents Band Camp and American Pie Presents the Naked Mile.
But if it means catching up again in another few years, in time for another life-signpost, and actually having a theatrical run-worthy project, then why not?
While all the original Pie-ers have gone on to do other things, none has really had the kind of subsequent role that has broken them out, the way John Travolta "broke away" from Welcome Back, Kotter and Saturday Night Fever or Bill Murray broke away from Saturday Night Live and Caddyshack. That's good news for the American [Fill in the Blank] producers, as it means the original cast members are free to continue making American [Fill in the Blank] movies. Maybe in the coming years, we'll be treated to American Unemployment, American Divorce, American How Can We Afford Private School?, American Receding Hairline, and a hilariously superficial take on the mid-life crisis that they can call…American Beauty!
It might not be a classic, but American Reunion is goofy, gross, and a lot of fun. Universal's Blu-ray is top notch.
Forget juvie, these aren't kids any more. Fortunately, the years have been kind to the Pie guys and girls, and the reunion is worth checking out.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Theatrical Version
Review content copyright © 2012 Tom Becker; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.