With no new jokes, 'Reunion' falls flat
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, Apr. 6, 2012
Comedy, like a flower, is a delicate thing.
I realize this now, after sitting through a technical glitch-plagued screening of "American Reunion," another sequel to "American Pie" whose sense of humor is typified by a scene in which a grown man - Seann William Scott, reprising his role as that virtuoso of vulgarity, Steven Stifler - makes number two in a beer cooler. A malfunctioning audio system had accidentally removed all background music from the film (although the sound effect of Stifler's bowel movement, unfortunately, came through loud and clear).
So imagine my delight when I was offered, less than 24 hours later, a second chance to see the film, as it was originally meant to be seen - and heard - by the writing-directing team of Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the auteurs behind "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay."
It was apparent that there were several jokes in "American Reunion" that relied heavily on the soundtrack of music from the '90s and beyond, such as a scene in which a middle-aged mom does a pelvis-grinding dance with a shocked young man (Chris Klein, as Chris "Oz" Ostreicher) to the tune of "My First Kiss" by 3OH!3. Without the music, it was just a bizarre pantomime.
After two almost back-to-back screenings, I can report that the songs add a certain something to the proceedings, which are set during the high-school reunion of the characters from "American Pie" and depend on a sense of nostalgia for the 1999 film.
The music is, however, like icing on an over-baked cake. With or without the tunes, "American Reunion" is an aggressively crass - and not especially funny - trip down memory lane, an attempt to recapture the sweetly ribald magic of the earlier film. As anyone who's ever attended a class reunion can tell you, it almost never works.
But don't take my word for it. Listen to Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) - the hero of the "Pie" movies, who now has a wife and kid - as he scolds his ever-immature friend, "You are so trapped in the past, Stifler. When are you going to realize that things are never going to be the way they used to be?" Like Stifler, "American Reunion" simply refuses to grow up. It may even have regressed.
Certainly the obsession with sex has not changed. Almost all the characters from the first film have returned with their libidos intact, and it's a mild pleasure to see them, especially Jim's dad (Eugene Levy), who's now widowed and lonely. The subject of coupling, uncoupling and re-coupling with exes - along with the de rigueur self-pleasuring - is almost the sole subject of conversation at this reunion, despite a few moments of small talk about what people have done with their lives. It's a missed opportunity. There's precious little comedy mined from the fact that people change.
It is least-common-denominator humor. In fact, it pushes R-rated movie boundaries: If you've ever wondered what a nude Biggs looks like smooshed up against glass, your prayers will be answered.
At times, however, it goes beyond tweaking taboos to the downright inappropriate. A subplot about a neighborhood girl (Ali Cobrin) - she's turning 18 and has the hots for Jim, her former babysitter - borders on the pedophiliac. Watching Stifler leer at her naked body, as she lies passed out drunk, isn't just unfunny. It's slightly creepy.
No amount of music would cover that up.
Contains Contains obscenity, nudity, comic violence, drug references and a constant drumbeat of raunchy humor.