Reunions have always had one foot in the past and one in the present, a time to both catch up with what friends are doing now and reminisce about the past times you shared together. And American Reunion, the fourth film in the popular American Pie series of sex comedies delivers just that both to its credit and detriment. (The movie wisely ignores the handful of direct-to-video sequels cranked out by the studio and I see no reason why we shouldn’t either.)
When we last saw Jim (Jason Biggs) and his high school sweetheart Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), they were off to a life of wedded bliss. Unfortunately a few years and a child later find them not having any time for the bliss part of married life. But a trip back to their Chicago suburbs hometown for their high school reunion offers them a chance to rekindle the passion of their not-that-long ago youth. But once Jim reunites with his old high school buddies – Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Oz (Chris Kline) and of course Stiffler (Seann William Scott) – he once again finds himself in a series of embarrassing and hard-to-explain-but-it’s-not-what-it-looks-like situations that place further strain on his and Michelle’s relationship.
Writer/directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg take over from series creator Adam Herz and manage to hit all the familiar notes of an American Pie film but offer a few variations that keep it from becoming a simple exercise in nostalgia. Amidst the raunchy jokes and comic nudity, they’ve manage to retain that same sweet core that the previous three American Pie films have had. The main cast is all given some moments to shine when not making jokes and they all deliver those moments well. So well in fact that it leaves one wondering why several of them aren’t working more than they are.
The film manages to subvert one of the series’ most iconic recurring scenes – those awkward heart to heart chats that Jim has with his father. This time, instead of being on the receiving end of unsolicited and uncomfortable advice on some problem, usually sexual, Jim finds himself being the one passing on wisdom to his father. Both Biggs and Levy have always been good in these scenes, but this one feels a little fresher and sweeter than many of the other sequences in the rest of the film. The film also offers another reversal, this time on a rather famous pairing, but to say more would venture into spoiler territory.
The film manages to pack a lot into its nearly two hours, and unfortunately it is too much. There is a feeling that the director felt obligated to give every character who ever got more than two lines on screen over the three previous films an appearance here. Unfortunately, some are just straight-up fan service and don’t manage to contribute to the story in any significant way. The end is result is a film that feels unfocused, bloated and which could stand to lose about twenty minutes off its run time.