It’s easy to deride American Reunion for being a needless sequel or cash grab. After all, we’re thirteen years on from the first film and in that time we’ve had bad direct sequels, trips to band camps, and straight to DVD spin-offs (which honestly aren’t as bad as you think they’d be). Fortunately, writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg are at least somewhat aware of the uphill battles they face in making this movie palatable to both new audiences and those of us who remember MILFs and pie sex from the good old days of ’99. For example, the film takes place in 2012 and their 13 Year Reunion. There’s a joke about missing the tenth, which is just a fun little nod to the absurdity of revisiting this franchise now.

Returning in large roles is the entirety of the male cast: Jason Biggs as Jim, Seann William Scott as Stifler, Chris Klein as Oz, Thomas Ian Nichols as Kevin, Eddie Kaye Thomas as Finch, and Eugene Levy as Jim’s dad. Also returning in various capacities are Alyson Hannigan as Michelle, Mina Suvari as Heather, John Cho as MILF Guy #2 and…yYou know what, pretty much everyone is back, okay?

Ten years on from American Wedding, Jim and Michelle are married with child but have seemingly lost the sexual spark in their relationship, which obviously leads to several early masturbation jokes. With the late arrival of their 13-year reunion, the pair head back homeward to meet up with their old crew – sans Stifler, who’s a dick.

At home, Jim’s mom has passed away, leaving Jim’s dad lonely and in need of consolation from his son in a role reversal. We quickly catch up with the rest of the crew – Oz is a sports commentator and Dancing with the Stars loser, Finch is a world traveler, Stifler a temp at an accounting form, while Kevin has moved on in life and is married with a scraggly beard.

The guys want to have a get-together, which is soon crashed by Stifler who leads them on a wild, drunken ride that ends up with Jim’s penis on screen. Some things never change. American Reunion dances through all of the characters and their minor arcs, with Jim and Michelle’s troubles tugging them apart, Stifler feeling alienated and lost outside of high school, while the other guys fight urges to fall back into their old roles and relationships.

I did not expect to enjoy American Reunion, but found myself squirming in my seat and laughing out loud rather frequently. The return of the Stifmeister almost made me crap my pants. When the movie works, and it works frequently, it is generally riding on the shoulders of Seann William Scott capturing and expanding the magic of the idiotic simpleton Stifler. There is a lot more heart and depth to Stifler this go around and he really becomes the emotional center of the film by the end as he struggles to find his role in the real world. Don’t worry, he also makes tons of crass jokes, gets a strange substance plastered to his face, and there is some fecal humor involved. He’s the same ol’ Stifler, just better, deeper.

When the film fails, it feels stale, like a retread of the past films – which it is. When Kevin faces off with Vicky (Tara Reid), it feels like a time machine transported me back several years and I don’t give a shit about what’s happening between them. Whenever two characters face off for a heart to heart, the laughs slow and things feel boring again. These moments happen a few times throughout, but are generally replaced by laughter and insane situations pretty quickly.

American Reunion did the reunion right – we see almost every character you could possible remember from the first film returning. Sometimes it’s a brief pigeon-holed joke, but often it’s a decent head nod. While sticking to the core of the franchise (the boring parts), Hurwitz and Schlossberg, who also directed, wisely expanded the roles of Eugene Levy, Seann William Scott, and Chris Klein, who totally re-embody their roles and brief fresh laughs back into franchise.

The film isn’t as crude as The Hangover but it does enough to appease crowds who want ever increasing moments of debauchery without ever being sinister. New ground is definitely not broken as the film feels like a re-tread at points, but I can’t be too negative against any film that made me laugh as often as this. I’m more surprised than you are that I enjoyed it. If you’re a fan of the franchise, you’ll dig it. If you love Seann William Scott and poop jokes, you’ll love it. If you like to laugh, I think you’ll have a good time. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it manages to do a lot right and it really captures the feel of a reunion – the fond memories, the new laughs, and the strange awkwardness.

The Upside: Seann William Scott as Stifler is utterly hilarious. His revenge against a group of young high school students had me rolling.

The Downside: There are stale moments that are supposed to be emotional that never really connect, generally between the couples. Or when Kevin is around.

On the Side: The first American Pie film was first circulated under the title Untitled Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made For Under $10 Million That Most Readers Will Probably Hate But I Think You Will Love.

Grade: B


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