Monday, 10 September 2012

Awkward Teenagers All Grown Up

It has been several years since we last saw this group of young people on screen together, and despite countless straight-to-DVD sequels, everyone sort of wished for them back. Well good news, but the big difference being that they are all grown up and mature (well, mostly) and not still crouched on the kitchen table with a pie in their hands. That is right. It is American Reunion. (Or American Pie: Reunion in the UK)

Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle Alyson Hannigan) are now married (obviously, considering the 2003 film, American Pie: The Wedding) and have a two year old son Evan but their marriage has hit an issue: they never have sex. However, they have a solution. In the upcoming weeks, their high school is holding a Class of ’99 reunion. The plan is to meet up with the other guys – Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), and Oz (Chris Klein) – a couple of days prior to the reunion, party a little, and then spend some quality alone time, just Jim and Michelle. But of course, one small obstacle can cause the entire plan to fall down; in this case, that obstacle is called Stifler (Seann William Scott). Upon discovering the other guys at a bar, he vows to make the weekend reflect those of the old days, much to Jim’s disagreement. The weekend then becomes an adventure of sorts with everyone trying to balance their old lives with their new ones. As old loves return, new ones are threatened and dilemmas begin to develop. Along the way they discover a girl, Kara (Ali Cobrin), who Jim used to babysit, some jet skis, and a tape of Oz’s time on ‘Celebrity Dance Off’.

The new season of 'Queer Eye For The Straight Guy' was no where near as tricky

The issue with bringing back an old franchise is making the new film appeal to the old fans as well as a whole new generation. American Reunion had the immediate advantage of casting all the same old actors which saves writing people out or new characters in. And the really excellent news is that all of the actors have remembered and can still portray their characters accurately a long with the added challenge of making them mature. Jason Biggs, in particular, really matured his character but, at the same time, everything was exactly the same. Jim is still the awkward lovable Jewish lad that he always has been but he's just more responsible now and his situations come from trying to do the right thing, rather than recklessness or foolishness. Eddie Kaye Thomas was also fantastic as Finch, (he was always my personal favourite character) and his story line was brilliantly acted and still hilarious. I'm also sure it goes without saying that Seann William Scott was brilliant as Stifler, the link to the past and immaturity; the one who throws everyone in at the deep end and then laughs as they struggle with their situations. Minor criticism of Thomas Ian Nicholas and Chris Klein who were both a bit dull. I did not help that they had story lines that lacked comedy but there was still something missing from both of them, particularly Klein, who just seemed despondent at points.

Some parts of the film did sock.

While distinctly lacking in as many laugh out loud moments compared to the earlier cinematic releases, American Reunion is fantastic at providing the one aspect that really is important to the franchise: awkwardness. The sex obsessed teenagers of the older movies would never have been funny if the situations played out even remotely well or overtly terrible. What has always worked with American Pie films, is finding that equilibrium where nothing goes right but somehow all is not lost. That awkward middle ground that will make any audience cringe. American Reunion was no exception and that is probably its biggest success. Its biggest flaw, however, is the effort to put in meaning or an extra story line. It should always be a dumb comedy, that's what it is good at, but sometimes characters are given too many emotive scenarios which are never fully developed and the screen time would have been better used making more jokes.

Fans of the older movies will like it just as much as the new audience members. The jokes relating back to the earlier films will provide joy to many an American Pie fan but, admittedly, the film isn't as fresh it used to be, but it would be a lovely conclusion to the franchise. (Though the film cleverly leaves it open for sequels if needed.) A good watch, but definitely a watch-with-friends type movie. Plenty of laughs, lots of cringing, and a only a few almost comic moments.

Best Bit? I cracked up more when Stifler met someone's mum than anything else. A clever clever joke, and very funny.