Sunday, 10 June 2012

American Reunion - Movie Review

I meant to do this one way earlier, but various obstacles kept me away from it. I first saw it about a month after it came out, because my best friend dragged me kicking and screaming to watch it. We watched the first ones on VHS together in high school, so he thought it would be a fun nostalgia trip. And to be fair to him, it was. Except now that I'm 10 years older, I'm a little bit wiser in my old age, and I recognize things that my younger self would likely have glossed over. See, here's my biggest issue with American Reunion: It's fiction. No, really, it's not the least bit believable. None of these people behave rationally, and the whole premise is just ludicrous. You might think I'm over analyzing what is basically a teen sex comedy, but there's more to it than that, and it's problems are all the more obvious because of it.

I'll just walk you through the plot. 13 years after graduating high school in the first movie, and we see Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) living happily as husband and wife, with a young child no less. And what is the first thing we see them doing? Secretly masturbating while he's in bed and she's in the bathtub, as their child walks in and the whole zany situation is revealed. Yeah, that's basically how they all start, but here's my problem: Jim is a 30+ year old man. He can't just be this hapless all the time, right?

Jim's the central character, but we also get to catch up with the rest of the main cast. Oz (Chris Klein) is a famous sportscaster with a nymphomaniac trophy wife, Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is an architect, Stifler (Seann William Scott) is an office temp, and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is a... drifter? I'm still not clear on that one. Anyway, they're all invited back to their hometown for a high school reunion, so we get to see them up to the same old antics. Pretty much every named character from the original series turns up at some point, even if it's only for a quick cameo. If you had a favorite character (and why the hell would you?), you get to be disappointed for a few brief seconds before they shuffle off camera to collect their paycheck.

Anyway, Jim and Michelle stay with Jim's dad Noah (Eugene Levy), who is now a widower. As Jim is arriving, he runs into girl next door Kara, whom he used to babysit when she was a child. However, she is about to turn 18, and decides that she wants Jim to take her virginity. Wait, what? Kara, who is still in high school, apparently very popular, and has an attractive boyfriend of her own, suddenly decides she wants to jump the bones of her 10+ years older former babysitter that she hasn't seen in years? That's an odd dot to connect.

Anyway, Kara invites Jim and his friends to a beach party to celebrate her birthday, and she gets black-out drunk. Jim drives her home, but in the process she attempts to seduce him, throws her clothes out the window, and passes out. Now, I want you to consider this situation. You've done the sensible adult thing and given this young girl a ride home, and in her drunken state she's done something embarrassing. Do you:

A) Call her parents, explain the situation, and let them handle things?
B) Call your friends to hatch an elaborate scheme to covertly sneak her back into her room?

Again I must remind you that Jim is 30+ years old. He's not a teenager, he should know better than this. Absolutely nobody would (or at least should) look down on him for being in this situation. But nevertheless his neurotic mind decides that the shortest distance between two points is wacky hijinks. Later, he attempts to have a romantic encounter with his wife, as the two have been having intimacy issues of late. However, Kara once again attempts to rape him. Her boyfriend attempts to assault him, his wife is horrified, and Kara herself is insulted that he isn't interested in her. Again, WHAT? What is wrong with you people? Is sex the only thing you freaks think about? Well, I'll come back to this at the end...

Oz reunites with his old girlfriend Heather (Mena Suvari), who is dating a heart surgeon/stereotypical douchebag. Naturally, they start to fall for each other all over again, despite the fact that they had been dating in every other movie, thus must have broken up at some point between the last movie and this one. The writers could not find anything else for these two to do, so they slapped this together and we're just supposed to buy it. Anyway, they both ended up with people who are very much wrong for them, and after they end up cheating on their respective partners with each other, they get back together. That's a great lesson: Cheating's okay as long as you're in love.

Kevin's whole character arc is that he meets up with his old girlfriend Vicky (Tara Reid), and after a night of drinking, they wake up in bed together. He suspects that they slept together, and she is offended by his reasonable assumption, so naturally he has to apologize. How dare he suspect Tara Reid of doing anything unseemly...

Finch tells the gang a bunch of stories about his legendary globetrotting adventures, but it all turns out to be a pile of lies, and he's just an assistant manager at Staples who stole a motorcycle belonging to his boss. Oddly enough, his story is the most realistic of the bunch. Who hasn't met up with an old high school classmate and wanted to embellish a little about their success? Anyway, he still manages to hook up with another classmate and they decide to take a trip to Europe. Sure, why not.

Jim's dad Noah is in a pretty rough place when we see him at the start of the movie, still mourning the loss of his wife from however long ago. He is encouraged by Jim to get back into the dating game, and after a rocky start on J-Date, ends up finding companionship with Jeanine Stifler, Steve's mom and the "milf" of the original trilogy. The film ends with them going on a movie date together, where she gives him a blowjob for some reason.

Stifler, still fancying himself a ladies man after all these years, tries unsuccessfully to hook up with several women throughout the weekend. We ultimately learn that this is the result of a major lack of confidence, brought on by his temp job crushing his spirit and forcing him into a submissive position. This reaches a breaking point when Stifler is called back to work on a weekend night to finish a presentation by his boss (I do so love Vik Sahay when he shows up in stuff I watch). The gang comes to encourage him to stand up for himself, so he quits his job and finds the confidence to talk up women again. In an ironic twist, he has a romantic encounter with Finch's mother, but elects not to reveal this to the group, showing that he has indeed matured. So mature that of all the places he could have had sex, he chose the 50 yard line of the school's fully illuminated football field. Again, what.

This movie does not take place in our reality. That is the only context in which I can accept this movie and the characters within it. Common sense does not exist in this realm, and the driving force behind all thought is sexual gratification. These people honestly haven't changed much in the 13 years since their graduation, and I have a thought about that: Is that what the writers think of their audience? We're supposed to relate to these characters, and every trailer is pushing the nostalgia factor pretty hard, urging us to be interested in what these people are up to. Are you the same person you were in high school? Not a chance! High school is way different than the real world, and these people have been independent adults for a decade. I cannot believe that these people are making the same mistakes they have been making for three movies. The way I see it, the American Pie universe is like one of those parallel dimensions that you see at the start of an episode of Sliders. Somewhat amusing, but you're still glad when the timer goes off and they slide to another, more interesting reality.

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