Film Review: American Reunion
American Pie came out in 1999 and quickly became the defining sex-comedy for those of us who were too young to have seen Porky’s. It had memorable characters, lines of dialogue that infiltrated the lexicon (the film popularised the term ‘milf’), and several moments that became instantly iconic. It also had Shannon Elizabeth topless (in a scene that probably wore out the most pause buttons around the world since Basic Instinct landed in 1992).
Thirteen years later, we get American Reunion, which centres around the 10-year reunion for the graduating class of 1999. “So what if they missed it by a couple of years” one character says, so as to get that awkward logic-deficit out of the way. Pretty much every character with a speaking role in the original film is back, although some are just here for a quick cameo. As expected, this sequel trades heavily on our nostalgia for the original film, to the point where a character uses her phone to show an internet clip of the famous Jim/Nadia bedroom scene. Several songs from the original soundtrack are reused here, sometimes to replicate exact shots.
This appeal to nostalgia could have felt as cloying as it did in a sequel like The Hangover, Part II, and there are times when it veers close. What saves it from sinking to that level are a couple of factors: 1) It has been 13 years since the original, as opposed to the 2 years separating The Hangover films, and, more importantly: 2) these moments don’t define the story. Here, the writers remind us of scenes from the original but they don’t work slavishly to bend the script around them.
The film starts awkwardly, with several character re-introductions that all fall flat. Thankfully, once the characters reunite, the film finds its footing. The stories aren’t particularly interesting (and there is a time-consuming subplot involving a barely-legal, flirtatious girl who Jim used to babysit, which should probably have been cut completely) but I enjoyed spending time with these characters. The film has the same sweetness that made the original work so well, and it has some relatable, grounded storylines amongst the silliness. There is a great scene in which the four leads look through their senior year book and find quotes about where they each thought they would end up in 10 years. It is a nicely-played, almost sombre scene, as they each reflect on what they have achieved in comparison to what they hoped to achieve by now.
Unsurprisingly, much of the screen time is dedicated to Stifler, who is by far the most interesting character. Sean William Scott gets most of the best lines and ends up stealing the film (as he did with the third installment, American Wedding). His comic timing is wonderfully precise and yet he makes it look effortless. Stifler is also one of the more empathetic characters; at this point in the franchise, his rather-adorable sensitive side is barely concealed beneath his douchery. Scott is a master at playing the easily-bruised jock, as he proved in the excellent Goon. The other scene-stealer is John Cho, who has some very funny moments. And he is still credited as ‘MILF Guy #2.’
American Reunion is a satisfying sequel that is affectionate to the original without feeling beholden to it. Several storylines are filler, but when the whole gang is back together, it doesn’t matter too much. It has a charm that is hard to resist, and an underlying humanity that balances out some of the more stupid scenes. I don’t know if this is the last film planned for the franchise (a line of dialogue suggests perhaps not) but if it is, this is a worthy swan-song.