Article first published as Blu-ray Review: American Reunion (2012) on Blogcritics.
It’s been over a decade since all the primary characters from the first two American Pie movies were all together. The less said about the embarrassing third installment, American Wedding (2003), the better. That one only managed to reassemble part of the original cast and even they seemed to realize the franchise was out of steam. But now we have American Reunion, an appropriate title, as every significant cast member—from Jason Biggs as Jim Levenstein right down to Chuck “The Sherminator” Sherman (Chris Owen)—is back. The big question is, were they able to pull it off after all these years?
I’d say the answer is a very cautious yes. For anyone who enjoyed the 1999 original and its 2001 follow-up, seeing everyone back together is quite a nostalgic kick. The concept is simple. After we catch up with the primary cast members, it’s revealed that their 10 year high school reunion never quite came together so there’ll be a 13 year reunion instead. Jim and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are still married. They now have a child, but are lacking intimacy. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicolas) is also married and has become quite a pussified househusband. At least he seems happy. Oz (Chris Klein) hit the big time as a TV sportscaster. He even competed on a Dancing with the Stars-type show. Poor old Stifler (Seann William Scott) has continued on a downward spiral since we last saw him. He’s working as an office assistant and gets no respect from his ego-tripping boss. Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has disappeared, rumored to be living a life of adventure.
The idea was to show the guys as full-fledged adults, while retaining the adolescent mischief of the earlier films. In other words, it’s still a raunchy teen comedy, only with a bunch of thirtysomethings replacing the teens. Some of the hijinks seem a little forced though, like when Stifler takes a dump in a cooler belonging to some current high school guys that teased him. There are a few playfully funny moments as the guys try to fit in with high schoolers at a beach party. Jim finds himself hotly pursued by, quite literally, the girl next door. He used to babysit Kara (Ali Cobrin), who just turned 18 and desperately wants to lose her virginity. But no matter how great Cobrin looks naked (pretty damn great, for the record), things kind of stop being funny as she is carried around unconscious by Jim, who even drops the poor girl on the ground as he’s trying to sneak her back into her parents’ house.
That’s the long and the short of it with American Reunion. Many of the jokes just fall flat after elaborate set-ups. Even the obligatory scene of Jim embarrassing himself in some risqué manner (i.e. the first movie’s apple pie) is botched by a poor editing. I won’t spoil it, because it happens to be rather surprising. But the sight gag is telegraphed and ends up not being nearly as funny as it should’ve been. Plus the film is not well structured, with the actual high school reunion serving as the third act. After watching Jim and company carrying on for the couple days prior to the big event, the reunion ends up being a big anti-climax. Most of the characters turn up well in advance, including encounters between exes Heather (Mena Suvari) and Oz, who never got over their abandoned relationship, and Vicky (Tara Reid), Kevin’s ex. The screenwriters clearly had no idea what to do with Vicky, and Reid is wasted in a retread of American Pie 2’s Kevin/Vicky awkwardness. When the actual reunion finally occurs, these characters have nothing left to say to each other. It simply becomes a series of brief cameos by original cast members who haven’t yet been squeezed in, like Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) and Jessica (Natasha Lyonne).
All of that probably sounds fairly negative, but there are enough decent chuckles (though many of them simply involve the characters reminiscing about far funnier times) to keep this easily worth watching for fans. It manages to wipe away the sour aftertaste left by American Wedding, even if it doesn’t quite match even the second film in terms of laughs. Old pro Eugene Levy steals the show as Jim’s dad, getting drunk with Stifler and stoned with Stifler’s mom (Jennifer Coolidge). But there again, the filmmakers sell Levy short by missing an opportunity for some real poignancy. Jim’s mom has passed away since the last film (cause of death unknown). While we see Jim’s dad watching an old video of her, it seems the true reason for making him a widower was so he could be coerced into returning to the dating world again. It’s kind of cheap, and while the Pie movies have never been highbrow by any means, it’s indicative of the overly blasé attitude displayed by the filmmakers.
On Blu-ray, American Reunion looks remarkably like its three predecessors, all of which recently bowed on Blu-ray as well. That is, it looks kind of dingy and dated. It’s not a bad looking picture really, just kind of on the dark side throughout, with black crush leaving fine detail lacking overall. It’s acceptable but nothing more than that. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix is similar, with no dialogue problems to speak of and strong, bass-heavy rock music cranked out frequently (situated mainly in the front channels). Surround activity is not exceptional, but it’s totally average for a recent comedy.
Fans of the franchise take note: this Blu-ray is loaded with extras. First off, the film itself is available as both the original theatrical cut and an unrated cut. The difference is about a minute, not a big deal. Deleted scenes, extended scenes, alternate takes and a gag reel all get their own section for a total of about 40 minutes of material (not all previously unseen, however, as the “extended scenes” are often not that extended). Most of it was cut for good reason, especially a long bit between Finch and Jessica that feels completely improvised, and badly at that.
A somewhat unusual video commentary option features various cast members popping up at the bottom of the screen to make comments. They call it “The Out of Control Track,” and it’s anything but. The actors don’t turn up very often and even worse, when they do they’re not funny. Co-writers and co-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg do a normal audio commentary. Spend your time there, not the actor’s crummy video commentary, as the filmmakers are informative and prepared.
Seven featurettes, ranging in length from about 10 minutes to under two, cover a wide variety of production aspects in a fairly shallow way. Finally, the interactive “American Reunion Yearbook” offers a cool concept that yields mixed results. You can access any of the primary characters’ yearbook pages, where there are several clickable items. There is some interview footage, but mostly this was an excuse to offer clips from the earlier Pie movies (reminding us every time, of course, that they are also available on Blu-ray).
American Reunion will be released on Blu-ray July 10. The two-disc set includes a standard DVD and a code to redeem for UltraViolet and digital copies.