Adam Herz, the creator of the “American Pie” film series that launched in 1999, has done a remarkable job meshing relatable characters in the manner of its chief influence, George Lucas’s “American Graffiti,” with the bawdy humor of “Porky’s” and “Animal House.”
The idea of the gang from East Great Falls, Michigan, getting together for a high school reunion is certainly an easy way for the filmmakers to come up with yet another “American Pie” sequel. I have never heard of a “13th anniversary” high school reunion but this contrivance is somewhat abated by the fact that the characters are now north of the big 3-0 which naturally causes some reexamination.
Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are now parents of an adorable son but “the thrill is all gone when they cut down the lights” as Jerry Lee Lewis sang in his poignant 1977 ballad, “Middle Age Crazy. Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), the literally and figuratively anally retentive character in the original film who came off as the mature one, has his old mates believing that he has been spending the last decade globetrotting in very remote places. Oz (Chris Klein) is a hunky LA sportscaster who has a trophy girlfriend but still pines away for Heather (Mena Suvari) who is involved with a narcissistic cardiologist. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nichols) is married to a very attractive woman in Chicago but still has a soft spot for his first love, Vicky (Tara Reid).
The attention- grabber in the group is still that perennial life of the party, Steven Stifler (Seann William Scott). In Stifler’s mind, he is still in high school. Working at a dead-end temp job with a nasty boss who enjoys humiliating him has only added to the romanticism of his glory years. It is clear that his former high school classmates have deliberately kept their distance over the years from this perennial man-child.
As expected, “American Reunion” throws in a few mild R-rated scenes and the obligatory scatological jokes to please longtime fans of this film series, but there is also a wistful poignancy as the protagonists try to balance pleasant memories from the past with a not-so-perfect present.
Co-directors Hurwitz and Schlossberg nicely work in almost every character who appeared in “American Pie” for at least a cameo the way that managers at baseball all-star games try to get every player into the game.
It is the two oldest actors here that are the most memorable. Comedy veteran Eugene Levy shines as Jim’s far-hipper-than-he-seems dad, while Jennifer Coolidge, in a homage to such 1950’s buxomly starlets as Mamie Van Doren and Jayne Mansfield, reprises her role as Stifler’s mother. It’s safe to say that at this point the phrase “Stifler’s Mother” is every bit as iconic to pop culture fans as “Whistler’s Mother” is to art aficionados.
It is somewhat surprising that none of the young actors ever became breakout stars. Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott have kept busy but they are certainly not A-listers. Tara Reid has been a fixture in gossip mags for a variety of personal problems but has not done much else. Alyson Hannigan is probably the most successful of the cast but she is best known for her role on CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother” than for movies.
All of which means that you can expect the cast to reunite for future sequels. That is not such a bad thing.