Earlier this year, Universal released American Reunion to mixed reviews and, at least in the United States, unspectacular financial results. Here were my original thoughts upon viewing the film during its theatrical run:
American Reunion is either the fourth or the eighth film in the profitable American Pie franchise. It depends on whether one counts the string of in-(brand)-name-only direct-to-video entries released over the last several years, which turned "American Pie" into this generation's "National Lampoon's Presents."
This theatrical sequel, let's call it the fourth, reunites the original ensemble cast of the first film, the late '90s sleeper smash hit. Not to be disrespectful, but reuniting this cast is not an Ocean's Thirteen level achievement. Most of them, after a brief heyday a decade ago, have slipped as far as the D list. Consider Chris Klein's dramatic "performance" in the Street Fighter sequel, now a YouTube sensation, or Tara Reid's descent from promising starlet (she was in an Altman film!) to hard-living, disreputable tabloid fixture. Even franchise scene stealer Seann William Scott hasn't had the easiest go of it despite a handful of roles in high-profile films (The Rundown, Role Models), never becoming a draw on the level of, say, Will Ferrell or even Jonah Hill. So most of them needed American Pie as much as the franchise needed them for purposes of authentic nostalgia.
The film's plot follows a predictable arc: the gang returns to their hometown for a high school reunion. We find the central lads (Jim, Oz, Kevin, Finch, and Stifler) adrift in their thirties. Jim is now a father with sexual frustrations. Oz is a vapid celebrity personality living in Los Angeles. Kevin has grown an unpleasant beard and has a Real Housewives loving wife. Stifler still lives with his mom (who is named Stifler’s Mom and is played as always by Jennifer Coolidge), can't get ahead at his white-collar job (not because of his wanton sexual harassment of his female colleagues, but rather a vindictive and emasculating boss, played by a diminutive man of color), and misses the good old days of boozing, banging, and adolescent bluster. And no one knows where Finch is or what he is doing before he rolls into town on a motorcycle.
Perhaps intended as a generational classic (and the idea, showing the characters of a teen movie a decade later, paunchier and dealing with professional, parental, and marital crises, is not without interest), American Reunion falls short, registering more as a decent, flawed, modest sequel. It has its fair share of potent laughs, but for the most part goes in one ear and out the other.
The film goes through the obscene motions, but its heart doesn't seem to be in the dirtiest of the gags, including one involving feces. There is also a disagreeable subplot involving a neighbor girl Jim used to babysit, played by the adorable Ali Cobrin. After a few shots, this sweet, fit teenager becomes a "Don't Stand So Close to Me" sex monster out to devour poor, neurotic, horny Jim, stripping in his car and struggling to go down on him. Later, of course, she learns her lesson. The film also does not seem to believe too much in the final scenes at the actual reunion in which, in predictable franchise form, bland postcard sentimentality (the type found in Kate Hudson movies) is confused with "heart," though the reunion playlist, a blast-from-the-past string of radio hits including "Never Let You Go" by Third Eye Blind and "The Freshmen" by the Verve Pipe, hits the sweet spot.
The best moments operate between the two extreme poles. Many of them involve the venerable Eugene Levy. He has always shined as Jim's Dad, a seventies sex machine hiding within a nice Jewish suburban father, and does so again here. There is also genuine pleasure to be derived from the reuniting of this cast, who still share a warm chemistry. Sure a few of them are given juicier roles than others (not even the film itself seems to care during the scenes devoted to Reid and Thomas Ian Nicholas' characters), but each member of the ensemble seems pleased to be in the fold yet again, and one hopes this film reminds producers of Seann William Scott's magnetism and energy and also Biggs' pleasant, anxious bonhomie. Both deserve second chances at being major stars.
The Blu-ray release of the film comes with an embossed slipcover and also includes a DVD and a code to view a digital version of the film via the UltraViolet streaming service.
It is, to be honest, a tad unimpressive on an audio/visual level. The transfer (presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1) is not an abomination, but also far from a treat for the eyes. Certain scenes are awful dense with digital noise for a high-definition release of what is, in a relative sense, a big-budget studio film. The film's uninimaginative color palette and flat shot compositions do not help its cause.
The audio is superior, if still miles from top-drawer. The dialogue is centered and crystal clear, however, and the pop music sounds crisp and full throughout, so there is no room for complaint. American Reunion is not a film designed to wow audiences with its sound design.
The bonus features seem more plentiful at first glance than they are, though what is included should satisfy fans.
First, disregard the unrated cut emphasized by the cover art. It is, I am sad to report, just one minute longer than the theatrical version. The final cut of Blade Runner, this is not.
More interesting are the 40-plus minutes of deleted and/or alternate scenes. While none of the content is mind-blowing, it is the place to go for Pie enthusiasts in search of extra material, not the neither-here-nor-there unrated version.
The rest of the features are, for the most part, three or four minutes in length and either promotional and/or self-satisfied in tone. One, for instance, is subtitled "Hangin' with Jason B." and is indeed an ode to the film's star. One by one, his co-stars sing his praises. It is as interesting as it sounds. Another is devoted to the invaluable Eugene Levy and is pleasant, but, again, it's three minutes long. Not much time to cover significant ground.