By Joan Ellis
American Reunion is an insistently terrible movie. It reunites the cast of American Pie, the genial high school sex flick from 1999. The simple reason the first movie worked (possibly an overstatement) and the second fails is that American Pie was good-natured while American Reunion is mean. You can’t build a comedy on cruelty.
Here’s some of what I wrote at the time: “American Pie is a somewhat silly, occasionally funny, mostly boring movie about adolescent sex. Four high school senior boys, mortified by their innocence and determined not to bring it to college, make a pact to lose their virginity by the night of the senior prom. This movie is the story of their struggle.” I went on to predict that “Five years from now, this group will be absorbed in marriage, children, and the jobs needed to support what they have created. But at this moment, they are drowning rather sweetly in their own awkward misery. Some day they will move from thinking about sex nearly every minute of their lives to thinking about it, as the statistics say, only every fifteen minutes. As for Hollywood, self-congratulation on splashing the screen with bathroom humor is its own form of awkward adolescence.”
Adolescent humor can be funny precisely because we can smile at teenagers caught up in their predictable awkwardness. Now, thirteen years later, the friends reunite in their hometown of East Great Falls, Mich., carrying with them an assortment of life’s troubles. The lazy script – blame Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg – decrees that each of the old buddies will have sex at the reunion. The path to that goal is a dull movie soaked in bathroom humor and a very mean spirit.
What can be said about Stifler, played by Seann W. Scott, a talentless actor who overplays his role of party boy/troublemaker so loudly that you want to run screaming from the theater? Stifler’s world and dreams are fed by parties, alcohol, and the free flowing excess that follows. A normally sober, nice guy like Jim (Jason Biggs) gets soused and appears to have cheated on his nice wife. A “Dancing With the Stars” champ like Oz (Chris Klein) ends up through no fault of his own on the floor with a drunken blond.
And the language. The f-word, such a perfect pejorative from Kristin Scott Thomas in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, is leaden when spat out repeatedly by a bunch of drunks. All too often the giant screen is filled with Stifler’s leering face as he devises one more cruel joke to inflict on an enemy. Fueled by alcohol and the conviction that all women have a ravenous and ready appetite for sex with strangers, this awful movie sinks quickly and completely. When the failed writers try to wrap it all up in contrived happy endings, they disappoint us yet again. Throughout this long ordeal I listened carefully for laughter in the theater. There was none.