Monday, April 9, 2012

Movie Review: "American Reunion" by Alex Schopp

Release: 2012
Director(s): Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Written By: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Actors: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Seann William Scott
Rated: R
Run Time: 113 min

This is the forth installment for the American Pie franchise (not including any of the direct-to-DVD releases, which I definitely do not), and sees every notable character from the first film back on screen, including Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Sean William Scott, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Chris Klein, Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, and Shannon Elizabeth.

The gang is all back in town for their high school reunion, and all back together for the first time in over ten years. From there, the plot doesn't necessarily offer much outside of what you might expect from the franchise - more sex-driven antics, ridiculous situations and mishaps, the flare up of old relationships, and of course, a final acceptance of who they all really are and where they're at in life, as individuals and as a group.

But is that enough for a film like this to succeed? Is there a feeling that we've been down this path one to many times before? What would this film be able to offer me that the previous three did not?

There are things to dislike about the film, sure, but overall, it was a success that entertained me throughout. The hands-down number one aspect about this film is the pure nostalgia it had to offer. We could have expected as much after discovering that the entire cast from the original film would reunite one last time, but it was still more fun to watch on screen than I expected it to be. There were actors that didn't help their cause much - Chris Klein and Tara Reid, I'm looking at you - but overall, the acting was solid enough for a comedy, and did what it needed to.

One of my favorite aspects with the film was something that I've seen in a couple of films recently ("21 Jump Street" being the other), and that's the complete generational gap between people who are now roughly our age and the kids currently in the high school scene. While this portion of the film felt fairly unfamiliar to what we're used to from this series, I really enjoyed the first half of the film that featured the interactions between the two groups. It's what you'd expect - high school kids being stupid and thinking they're the center of the universe, and these older guys thinking they're still cool and can keep up with the younger kids - but it was fun nonetheless.

The subplots of the film worked, but mainly because we knew the characters so well, and knew where they came from - mostly I'm referencing the storylines with Jim's mom and dad, and the tension between Oz and Heather. Those were both overall worthwhile plot points, that, if unfamiliar with the previous films, would have had much less to offer. But I knew these characters, and I rooted for all of them. Other than our main characters though, most everyone else was just kind of thrown in, not offering much else to the overall plot of the film. For this film and this situation though, that was perfectly fine. Just seeing everyone pop in and give their one line about what they're doing now was enough to make me giddy.

The biggest debate of the entire film though (and one which we'll discuss on this week's edition of the CinemaCast): would this film be a success if you were completely unfamiliar with the previous films? My best answer to that is yes and no. The film still provides plenty of comedic situations from this group to warrant a laugh from all. Had we not seen the previous films, the jokes would still mostly hit, they just wouldn't mean as much. I think I could have definitely enjoyed the film had I been unfamiliar with these characters, but I probably wouldn't have had anything to do with seeing it in theaters. It would have been a standard comedy with plenty of decent laughs, but ultimately rather forgetful. With the nostalgia factor though, it puts this movie much higher up.

I can see anyone who's a little (or a lot) older than me wanting very little to do with this movie. It's funny, but it's still rather crude for characters now in their 30's. And if you're not of a similar generation, there's honestly probably not much value in that. But if you are of a similar generation, and you've grown up with these characters and these movies, I definitely recommend checking it out. I haven't seen any of the other three in quite some time now, but I think, mostly just because I'm an adult now and my friends and I are all dealing with similar situations, this may be my favorite of the series. But, I've probably thought every one of the films was the best when it came out, just because I related to it more than the previous one(s).

The movie is quite funny though, and I loved seeing all of these characters back on screen one more time. Don't expect anything mind-blowing, but it's a comedy and it succeeds at that. If you have as much nostalgic connection to this series as I do, this is a must-see in theaters. If not, maybe check it out sometime on DVD. Regardless, you'll get plenty of good laughs.