I didn’t have high expectations for American Reunion. I hoped for a couple of laughs, a sweet character moment or two, some clever callbacks to the previous films, and a few great Eugene Levy scenes. Well, Levy delivered. Everything else...?
What’s most shocking about American Reunion is how resoundingly unfunny it is. The only thing worse than bad slapstick is empty somberness, and bad slapstick and empty somberness sum up what American Reunion has to offer. The characters from the first film return, totally bummed out by their lives as they enter their thirties... and occasionally shit in beer coolers or show their dicks by accident.
Thirteen years ago we could look at a Jason Biggs or an Eddie Kaye Thomas and think that these guys were just starting out and that, in a few years, they might blossom into gifted performers. But in this latest film they’re delivering performances that are actually worse and more amateur than the original movie. These guys are marginal talents at best, and it turns out that marginal talents acting out a badly written script in a flatly shot movie is absolutely no fun.
There are a couple of bright spots - the aforementioned Levy, for instance. Seann William Scott’s Stifler has grown up to be a sociopathic sexual molester who probably should be chemically castrated, but at least Scott’s primate-level mugging is almost entertaining. And then there’s Chris Klein, whose performance is so bafflingly bad as to be a hoot. He’s mostly playing Oz as if he were in an Ingmar Bergman film... and if he had wet brain.
Everybody else? Biggs is compared to Adam Sandler in the film, but his lifeless turn as a mentally challenged idiot who keeps getting into stupid, embarrassing situations might make you wish for the comic verve of a Jack and Jill. Eddie Kaye Thomas is as uninterested as the audience, and I’m still not convinced that Thomas Ian Nicholas EXISTS. He’s listed as starring in the movie, and I know there was a guy with a beard in the film who was supposed to be him, but he had all the impact of a fart in a hurricane.
American Reunion is the fourth film in a sex comedy series, so it needs to get something approximating ‘sex comedy’ into the picture. It gets some tits in there, and lots of degrading, passé attitudes about women, but the comedy stuff seems to have been left on the cutting room floor. Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the guys behind the Harold & Kumar movies, wrote and directed this entry, and they did a dismal fucking job of it. The script is deader than Eddie Kaye Thomas’ eyes, and nothing is staged with imagination or a thought for even the simplest composition.
I would accuse American Reunion of being misogynistic, but the movie seems to hold all of humanity in contempt, not just women. Sure, women are presented as either barely-there nags or conveyances for tits and pussies, but the men are presented as pathetic, simple-minded, aggravating shits. The affable realism of the characters in the first film has melted away like Toht’s face at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, revealing nothing but icky parts and gooey ugliness. Every character in this movie sucks.
The whole movie sucks, really. It’s almost a relief when the actual reunion comes and we get a series of ‘Hey, it’s that guy!’ moments, including Natasha Lyonne finally showing up. Since she’s in the movie for about a minute this marks the first time where she’s not the most shamed person in the area (also because Tara Reid, looking like nothing so much as a post-human horror, is nearby). These moments are the closest we get to real nostalgia, and the only dramatic tension the movie offers is wondering if they could get the Sherminator back. None of this is done cleverly, though, just as a series of shots of people walking into the frame and saying hello.
It’s the morose ‘our lives stink’ stuff that’s the weirdest part of the movie. These characters don’t seem old enough for that - they’re just entering their 30s, for Christ’s sake. Nobody involved in the film has the ability to bring a nuance of dissatisfaction (look to the current season of Mad Men for talented actors and storytellers bringing subtle dissatisfaction), and so everybody just comes off as sad sacks. These are white, upper middle-class people (upper class, in Oz’s case, as he’s now some kind of shitty sports show anchor) and their niggling problems - oh no, my wife makes me watch The Bachelor! - feel trite. I’m not saying that the movie needed to give Finch cancer (although that would have been welcome, personally speaking), just that it needed to either accept the trivial nature of these guys’ problems or not wallow in them so much.
Or to offset it all with good jokes. Any jokes. Have I mentioned this film isn’t funny? I’m an easy laugh, and American Reunion managed to get about a half dozen giggles out of me. Usually I’m the guy cackling the loudest at any comedy movie - I sat through this one stone faced.
The American Pie movies were never great films, but they were nice enough. American Reunion makes you long for the comedy stylings of the direct to video spin-offs. Let me know when they get to American Funeral.