As wrap-up films for movie franchises go, one just has to look back at the Harry Potter empire to see how to do it right. American Reunion director Jon Hurwitz (“Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay“) was obviously not very observant.
Born in 1999, “American Pie” conceived by Adam Herz and starring a group of newcomers (including Jason Biggs, Sean William Scott, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Alyson Hannigan, Natasha Lyonne and Tara Reid, as well as Mena Survari — who had made a big splash in “American Beauty” the year before) burst onto the scene and ushered in a wave of raunchy but hilarious “R” rated comedies. As usual, though, the movie also spawned several unimpressive sequels, and was thought to have run its course after the dismal 2003 effort, “American Wedding,” as well as a series of terrible straight-to-DVD duds. Twelve years later, however, the idea of a reunion concept is introduced and everyone returns to Great Falls, Mich. for the finale.
The original gang — Jim Levenstein (Biggs), Kevin Myers (Nicholas), Paul Finch (Thomas), Chris “Oz” Ostreicher (Klein) and Steve Stifler (Scott, who was more of a nemesis in earlier pictures) — have graduated from high school and has gone on to various occupations and relationship situations.
Jim has finally married Michelle (Hannigan, “How I Met Your Mother” TV series) and Kevin has hooked up with Jessica (Lyonne, “New Girl” TV series). Oz is a superstar sportscaster involved with party girl model Mia (Katrina Bowden, “30 Rock” TV series), Finch returns from a series of “adventures” and Stifler is a temp working for a large corporation.
Other familiar faces soon show up too (making fans of the series chuckle with recognition and astonishment at what more than a decade will do to some people’s appearance), including Vikcy Lathum (Reid), Heather (Suvari) and Chuck Sherman (Chris Owen), among others. The two most recognized, however, are of an older generation, Mrs. Stifler (Jennifer Coolidge, “Legally Blonde,” “Best in Show“) and Mr. Levenstein (Eugene Levi, “A Mighty Wind” and an original member of the “SCTV” comedy troupe).
And while we’re supposed to be concerned that Jim and Michelle are not having sex as often as they should; or that Oz and Mia are not getting along; or that Vicky seems to be coming on to Kevin; or that Finch may not be exactly what he seems; or that Stifler is not happy with his job, eventually American Reunion comes down to the original’s raunchier elements.
Yes, there are scenes that will literally make you turn away in embarrassment or gag in contempt; and the plot involving an 18-year-old girl that Jim once babysat coming on to him is decidedly creepy — and not funny in the least. And, of course, since there HAS to be one in every movie these days, an awkward gay subplot is introduced. The only saving grace (and that term is used very loosely) is the inclusion of Coolidge and Levi, but their brief scene together peters out and ends all to quickly for much comedic satisfaction. Levi’s early scenes with his son, though, do work and illicit the only real laughs from this production.
Thus, with the past conclusion and tying up of the series’ many loose ends, the “American Pie” franchise has come full circle. The problem is this final point on that the circle is not very funny or even interesting enough to care about.