Nostalgia is an unusual concept to base an entire film’s success on. It alienates a lot of your potential audience who don’t know or don’t care about the previous movies in the series that you are trying to homage/revive/remember. It also gambles heavily on people wanting to relive and remember the original films and their characters. If the film’s popularity isn’t as good as you originally believed, you could create a film that nobody actually wants to see.
The American Pie series took this gamble with even longer odds of success because of the more recent installments to the series. The original film was a fantastic concept, had great characters, brilliant scenes and iconic moments; the second movie managed to better the first, by creating even bolder scenes and focusing the attention towards the surprise success of the first movie: Sean William Scott’s Stifler.
The straight-to-dvd films watered down the series and I haven’t seen any of them so can offer little comment. American Wedding proved there was only so much you could do with the concept and characters and unfortunately, I truly believed that it was the final nail in the series coffin. The first trailer for American Reunion managed to make me smile and offer enough hope of a “true to the original” sequel that I got interested again.
That’s because it felt a lot like the original movie. All the characters, I mean all of them, were back to recreate the original’s charm. The characters had grown-up but hadn’t changed and there was plenty of difficult, awkward and awful situations for Jim to get himself stuck in again. It was written, directed and designed as a brilliant “best-of.” For someone who was the perfect age and subsequently the perfect audience for the original movies, it plays like a greatest hits.
There are loads of “in-jokes” and they never fail to raise a smile. From the references to that famous “internet video” to recreations of the infamous scenes between Jim and his Dad, sat on the edge of his bed. There are loads for fans of the original series and it’s a “spot the reference” game for anyone who knows the films in and out (like I do.)
Unfortunately, there is very little beyond that. The stories aren’t anything new and nothing we haven’t already seen before. Jim and Michelle are having relationship difficulties, Stifler needs to learn how to grow-up, Oz is in love with Heather (again), Kevin is questioning his decisions and actions and Finch is looking down on everyone with his attitude of superiority. You could choose a movie, choose a character and still find them acting the same way and going through the same issues.
The issue is, it is only Jim and Stifler’s characters that really resonate and entertain. These are the two characters that drive the series forward and the two characters that you care about the most. Jim gets into the best situations and is the central figure of the movie. Stifler is still the funniest person in the movie and gets to say and do the most entertaining things. The rest are just a distraction and it slowly becomes more and more obvious that there is very little to actually do with all these returning characters.
One of the positives of all the returning characters is how easily most of them play their iconic counterparts. Jason Biggs has never been better than when he is Jim and the same could also be argued for Sean William Scott as Stifler. It is incredible how easily Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas and Eddie Kaye Thomas all slip back into their respective roles too. It also highlights how little most of them have managed to do since the success of the original two American Pie movies.
It also highlights the weakest link of all and I don’t think I’ve seen an acting performance as bad as Tara Reid’s. Even when she is required to sleep in a scene she looks unbelievable and fake. Each actor has had a quite stifled acting career but she seems to be the only person that has got worst.
Overall, American Reunion is a very entertaining film if you are a fan. It plays through the usual scenes and references the classic moments fantastically. Each of the actors play their respective characters as naturally as they ever did, with one notable exception, and it feels like a classic American Pie movie. Unfortunately, its a victim of its own shallow attempt to relive past glories. Beyond the “classic moments” there is very little new here and it highlights how little you can do with most of the returning cast.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)