It was 1999 that American Pie launched what would be a series of teenage sex comedies, given a relatively cost effective formula loaded with nudity and toilet humour, that exploded at the box office and made everyone sit up to take note which of its cast members would go on to make it big. The film spawned two more films that would culminate in a wedding, before going direct to video in the many spin offs lie Band Camp, Naked Mile, Beta House and Book of Love that had very little links to the main characters. It's almost a decade already, and it's perhaps time to put those spin off films to rest, and bring back the original cast and their characters to the big screen in a logical reunion. And why not, given that the individual cast members never really made it to the big league, that coming together in a show of unity may rekindle memories of an audience who grew up with them from 1999's original, and in some ways provide one last shot in the arm for their individual careers.
And so it's a warm hello to old friends with whom we have last left off without much of a closure for all the characters, and like a real reunion, we discover just what our friends have been up to during the course of their absence in our lives. Some are successful, others not, and some are depending on what definition you're using. There's Jason Biggs as Jim Levenstein who's still married to Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) with a kid in tow and having trouble with their non-existent sex lives, Oz (Chris Klein) being a successful television sports anchor and celebrity with a model girlfriend (Katrina Bowden), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) who's also happily married but dreading a very routine lifestyle filled with TV and more TV, who would have thought Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) being very much of an all round adventurer, and Stifler (Seann William Scott) the jock who, well, according to unwritten rules, finds himself in between jobs, getting really nowhere in his career, and still bearing a grudge towards Finch for nailing Stifler's Mom (Jennifer Coolidge).
Some things never change too, as we usually find out during meet ups with old friends, old flames and once rivals, that when we rekindle the past, we'll at times tangent into the what ifs. And there are plenty of such situations that make up the narrative of Reunion, with Jim having to fend off the advances of his neighbour Kara (Ali Cobrin), whom he babysat a long time back and is now a nubile 18 year old eager to lose her virginity to Jim, and both Oz and Kevin discovering old feelings with their exes Heather (Mena Suvari) and Vicky (Tara Reid). Stifler faces challenges at work especially that threatens to cancel his attendance at the school reunion ball, while Finch seems to get onto a real relationship with Selena (Dania Ramirez).
There's also the return of the evergreen favourite, Jim's dad (Eugene Levy), now a widower but still finding time to talk about sexuality very openly to an always embarrassed Jim, and that of a slew of supporting characters from the earlier films that I will not name to contain the surprise. But it's a full reunion as the filmmakers pulled out all the stops in order to make sure of a proper representation rather than a half-hearted event, in order not to short change the audience. And surprisingly though that directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg seemed to have restrained themselves a lot from their Harold and Kumar days, and like touching a holy grail of teenage sex comedies, treated the material and characters here with a lot of respect rather than going for the jugular because getting the team back together again with a valid excuse will seem like a long way ahead.
But when the jokes came, they came fast and furious since we have Stifler in the party and ensuring that his posse of friends get the best deal out of their short weekend stay in town, and this balances out with more dramatic moments which can be seen coming from a mile away. Stifler's party forms the centerpiece where the you-know-what hits the fan, and for all the amount of nudity in the earlier movies, American Reunion would win for being the tamest of the lot, toning blatant nudity down by a lot of notches, and keeping things in relative PG mode as the narrative chugged along drama rather than comedy, for the most parts of the second half anyway.
The first American Pie film garnered an R21 rating here, and this one, although having full front male genitalia on display, male on male kissing, the requisite foul language and subject matter that will earn it an R21 easily, its M18 rating perhaps also reflected a relatively loosening of ratings here in Singapore, although this remains to be seen whether one off, or gets sustained and gradually loosened up even more as time goes by. Still, American Reunion, whatever the rating, is definitely for franchise fans (whether considering the direct to video titles or not), and I really enjoyed how it went full circle in the group's reunion in their final scene together. If you're a fan, then what are you waiting for?
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