“BROS! Wouldn’t it be TOTES AMAZEBALLS if we went back to our high-school reunion, and all the 18-year-old sluts in town wanted to do us and we couldn’t do them because we were married and stuff so we just beat up their boyfriends and let them blow us while we high-fived each other and listened to Chumbawumba?? SO AWESOME, BRO! Sack tap! Last one to the jetskis sucks dicks!”
That is to say, American Reunion is an extremely specific type of wish fulfillment, and I’m ashamed to say that it mostly worked on me. I am that demo, and I hate myself for it. For years, I’ve ridiculed the Baby Boomers for turning most of pop culture into their own self-congratulatory circle jerk for the last 30 years. Now, I realize that my own generation is going to be EVEN MORE ANNOYING. We’re ALREADY getting nostalgic about shit that happened like FIVE YEARS AGO! As smug and obnoxious and terrible as the Boomers were, at least with them, things happened – the war, the sexual revolution, the Civil Rights movement (you know, debates we’re constantly forced to re-argue long after they’ve lost all relevance, but that’s another story). MY generation’s version of a watershed moment? “HEY, BRO! REMEMBER THE VERVE PIPE??”
WE ARE THE WORST, AND IT’S ONLY GOING TO GET WORSER. Did you see Ferris Bueller hawking minivans?
Let’s be clear, I don’t blame American Reunion for any of this. It was just particularly good at tapping into it. American Pie nostalgia isn’t even really nostalgia FOR American Pie, because let’s face it, American Pie wasn’t good. Can’t Hardly Wait was much better. Like, AmanDUH.
It’s nostalgia people my age have for being younger, and more generally, nostalgia for the times when pop culture and music still had movements, and trends that lasted long enough to engulf the mainstream, when you could still look back and be embarrassed for liking things. Now (thanks to the internet and whatnot) trends last barely long enough to be categorized before there’s a counter-trend, trends and counter-trends run concurrently, and both usually implode or evolve by the time most people are only just hearing about them. So much fractionalization makes it hard for more than three people at a time to remember the same of anything, so naturally we revert to the time just before that, and that’s why I’m terrified of spending the next ten years going DUDE, REMEMBER SKA??! (Sidenote: God, do I ever).
But ignoring cultural trends, I think from an objective standpoint, American Reunion is probably better than American Pie (I realize that’s not the only context in which to judge, but indulge me). The driving force of both are hijinxy set pieces, and directors Hayden Schlossberg and Jon Hurwitz (who also did the Harold and Kumar movies) are better at staging them than American Pie director Paul Weitz is (he also did Little Fockers). Whereas Weitz tends to be bland and tamped down, Schlossberg and Hurwitz do stoner comedy that’s boldly dumb, like a gag in the latest Harold and Kumar where Danny Trejo shatters a Christmas ornament with a rocket of jizz. In the same way, Stifler’s lines (which are really the only reason to go to an American Pie movie) are sharper in Reunion than in any of the other movies. When he says things like “Let’s dust off that old dick of yours and get you some vag!” I laugh, because that’s vulgarity with flair.
There’s also an interesting element of pop culture satire the franchise never had before, allowed by Oz’s (Chris Klein’s) backstory as an ESPN reporter who just did Dancing With Stars. Neil Patrick Harris has a nice cameo as the show’s host, who sends Oz packing with the Donald Trump-style sendoff, “We saw you jam, now you can scram!”
Like a lot of comedies, the movie suffers every time it tries for heartfelt drama, as if the same people who like watching Stifler take a dump in an ice chest are going to care about Oz’s unfulfilling marriage. Tara Reid’s only job was to get offended by something stupid every few minutes, rasp whinily, and storm off. Luckily every time she was on screen I zoned out, hoping she’d offer to suck someone’s cock for a thousand dollars. Less as a Lebowski reference than as a meta wink at real life.
And there was so much late 90s music throughout the entire movie that there were a few times when the characters were having some lame dramatic moment that probably would’ve had me cringing and squirming in my seat had I not been much more focused on whether the song playing behind them was Dishwalla or White Town.
As bad an actor as Chris Klein is (how was he so brilliant in Election?!), he’s Brando compared to Thomas Ian Nicholas. Luckily, Nicholas, like a lot of the other characters, doesn’t have to do much acting, he just has to stand there while we think OH MY GOD IS THAT HENRY ROWENGARTNER?? REMEMBER WHEN HE BROKE HIS ARM AND BECAME A MAJOR LEAGUE PITCHER AND MAN THAT WAS CRAZY OH TO BE YOUNG AGAIN.
Ugh. I hate us. We are like, Scum 41, bros. I don’t blame American Reunion though. It was much better than it should be.