While sitting in a sold-out theater on opening day for AMERICAN REUNION, I took a look around at the crowd and wondered to myself: seeing as most of the kids surrounding me were probably only a few years old when the first PIE film sparked the franchise, is it actually possible that there are people here who had never actually seen the originals? Unfortunately, many of my suspicions were confirmed as the film progressed. As myself and a handful of others in the audience giggled uncontrollably at throwback moments, it became clear that these little in-jokes were completely over the heads of most in attendance.
All of which conveniently sums up what this film represents: a poignant, funny and nostalgic trip down memory lane, where the demographic is so generationally specific that it almost defies explanation. Any who have grown up with the watered-down, straight-to-home-video releases that have plagued the franchise over the past decade will be completely out of their reckoning on this one.
REUNION is not a great film. Hell, it’s barely even a good film. It has all of the questionable deviations from structure and plot – not to mention the silly humor and, at times, melodramatic tendencies – that you’d come to expect from this sort of movie, but with the added bonus of nostalgic hindsight. If you’re among the generation that grew up alongside these characters, watched them grow and find their way into all manner of moronic hijinkery, then I can’t recommend this film more highly. Because, in the end, that’s what this film is: a chance to relive moments with friends, and the perfect way to celebrate the end of youth.
As we meet up with all of our favorite characters one-by-one (even the ones that were notably absent from the slightly divergent AMERICAN WEDDING), we find them all having grown up and (mostly) settled down. All except for Seann William Scott’s Stifler, of course, who manages to come out of nowhere as the emotional center of the film and the poster boy for all of its themes. Even ten years later, the man simply cannot be tamed, changed or altered – he is still an unstoppable, destructive machine. Though he finds himself working as a lackey at a major insurance firm – one gets the nagging suspicion that, despite his extremely wealthy family, he only does this because it seems like what everybody else is doing – and an outcast amongst his friends (who don’t even call him for the reunion), he is still living dangerously in the past; the absolute pinnacle of arrested development. Even in his thirties, Steven Stifler is still running around like an idiot, performing all kinds of insane stunts and putting all of his friends in terrible situations.
In a way, Scott carries this movie. His insanely detailed recreation of the character that he perfected over thirteen years ago is on full display here, and although it’s frighteningly obvious that his method of pinching up his voice to reach that trademark, higher octave has become far more difficult in his middling age, his desire to fully capture an old persona melds perfectly with who his character is. Stifler still gets most of the laughs, but what’s really surprising is how much of the heart he gets this time around: when Jim looks him in the eye and tells him that he was “a huge part of what made high school awesome” to remind him of the anti-friendship they once had, it feels genuine. It’s hard not to think back on that one high school friend whose unabashed abrasiveness will somehow always remind you of both complete fury and all of the moments that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
The film is chock-full of throwback moments that almost seem as real as your own teenaged memories: when John Cho appears as “MILF Guy #2”, it’s hard to believe that there was once a time before everybody knew who John Cho was – and what MILF meant. As the old schoolmates slowly materialize one-by-one, it feels like greeting old friends in the absolute best way possible; not one character is left behind in the utterly amazing third act, which exclusively features popular music from the 1990s.
I loved this movie. I really did. Although I’m not quite as old as the characters in the film, I am just inside the demographic who grew up watching them. They hold a special place in my heart as a perfect representation of my teenaged memories. So, in a way, this movie is a true reunion – with moments we’ve long forgotten and with friends we’ll never forget. It’s the perfect ending to the AMERICAN PIE franchise, as bittersweet and poignant as it has any right to be.
You’d be surprised what you can do with a well-placed thumb.