Directed by: Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg
Premise: The fourth theatrical feature in the American Pie series. The cast of the original film, now entering middle age, reunite for their high school reunion.
What Works: For viewers of a certain age (meaning those who are approximately the same age as the main cast) and who watched the first picture in its initial release, American Reunion does have a certain nostalgic value. The original American Pie was not a great movie but it was a memorable one that spoke to the experiences of viewers entering adulthood in the late 1990s. Seeing the original cast reunited thirteen years later does have some impact, at least at first, and the actors effectively resume their roles.
What Doesn’t: Although American Reunion reunites the talent in front of the camera, this film was made by different people behind the camera and it shows. The picture was written and directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, whose previous filmmaking credits are limited to the Harold and Kumar films. Those pictures rode on the coattails of American Pie, adopting the film’s crude humor but only half its intelligence and none of its heart. That describes American Reunion exactly. Hurwitz and Schlossberg clearly watched the original three pictures and noted the recurring gags and themes but then set about making a film that is a checklist of every major set piece and plot beat from the previous American Pie movies. There just isn’t anything here that is new. Ironically, the film misses the whole point of a reunion; when people get together to commemorate a special period of time, like high school, it is in part to fondly recall past adventures but also, and more critically, to get a measure of where we’ve come since then. American Reunion is only interested in reliving the past. The whole film is predicated on callbacks that remind viewers how much fun they had watching the earlier American Pie movies but it does not introduce new ideas or modify the original concepts to provide some fresh perspective. By the time the film gets to the reunion party, the filmmakers have crammed the movie with references and characters from the previous installments but it is all a series of glorified cameos and none of it means anything. As a result, American Reunion is a collection of scenes but not a story. The characters have changed little from their high school days and all of their storylines are abbreviated rehashes of earlier films. No one really wants anything, there is no rising action, and the film isn’t moving toward a climax or a conclusion. This film’s failures are unfortunate since the original American Pie, and to a degree its sequels, told a compelling story with interesting and memorable characters. It stood out because it was very different from everything else in the comedy marketplace at that time. American Reunion has the misfortune of coming out after a decade of movies with an equivalent comic style and it has the consistency of a film that has been focus-grouped and studio-noted into a bland porridge. What was an innovative and in some respects a subversive series has been tamed into an insipid corporate product.
Bottom Line: American Reunion is a superfluous movie. There just isn’t any reason for it to exist. The same issues of adulthood were addressed more effectively in the superior third film, American Wedding, and that was a far better send off for the series. Like its characters, American Reunion is trying to hold onto its high school glory days while the rest of us have moved on.
Episode: #384 (April 15, 2012)