American Reunion

 

Directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. Starring Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge 16 cert, general release, 112 mins

This underpowered effort from the Pie people will stick in your craw, writes DONALD CLARKE

“THIS IS the saddest story I have ever heard.” Admit it. You didn’t expect to encounter a quote from Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier in a review of the latest (with emphasis on “late”) film in the American Pie franchise. But the novelist did capture something of the American Reunion Experience.

I’ll explain. In 2003, when the teen gross-out series reached episode three, several of the original actors seemed to regard the project as beneath them. Mena Suvari, still riding the American Beauty slipstream, was anywhere but there. Tara Reid, once a proper celebrity, also made her excuses. There was a sense that younger adults were putting childish things behind them and moving on to wide, inviting pastures. Well, the poor things are all back in action for the fourth film.

It hardly needs to be said that, as is the way with reunion pictures, at least one of the characters turns out to be living a less glamorous life than he or she pretends. You know the sort of thing. They’re turning tricks beneath the underpass. They’re selling knives door-to-door. They’re competing with exiles from My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding on Celebrity Big Brother (shame on you, Miss Reid). They’re doing whatever it is that Eddie Kaye Thomas has been doing for the past decade. Poor, poor people. It might have been better if they’d never become famous in the first place.

The psychological premise of American Reunion is shaky from the start. As you will recall, the last film saw the priapic youths coming together for the marriage of Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) and Michelle Flaherty (Alyson Hannigan). It was nice of the couple to invite all these oiks. It was nicer still – given that Biggs and Hannigan almost have careers – to bring them all back for their mid-life crisis.

Hang on a moment. Isn’t the American Pie team a little young to be worrying about spreading waistlines and wandering libidos? Most of them have barely entered their 30s (and their characters are slightly younger than that). Lord knows what sort of breakdowns they’ll have when they reach their twilight years.

Anyway, Jim and Michelle, who have recently become parents, are enduring a period of sexual misalignment. He enjoys looking at pictures of nude schoolgirls on the internet. She has become unduly fond of her showerhead.

Elsewhere, the other members of the gang are suffering their own disappointments, frustrations and malfunctions. Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott) is still working as an intern. Chris “Oz” Ostreicher (Chris Klein) is a famous newscaster, but, after an unfortunate appearance on a dance show, he’s fast becoming a figure of fun to his former fans. For some reason, they all decide to head home for a school reunion. Damp, drunken chaos ensues.

The only people who seem comfortable with the enterprise are Eugene Levy (confused as Jim’s dad) and Jennifer Coolidge (sexually eager as Stifler’s mom). They played older people before. They’re still playing older people.

Everybody else wears faces that suggest they’ve wandered into the wrong lavatory with their clothing already undone. They’re too mature to get down with the booze and bosoms gags. They’re not quite mature enough – and the project is too uncertain in its tone – to accommodate any convincing drama about the tragedies of unfulfilled potential. Whereas the earlier films too often erred towards the basely idiotic, American Reunion is so underpowered it barely qualifies as a proper bore.

This really is a sad, sad story. We grow up. We put pie-humping and wee-drinking behind us. We demand, instead, films that reinforce the awful, dry conformity of suburban life.

Still, it’s reassuring to see that Suvari (wooden) and Reid (flat) can still find work that doesn’t involve wearing a hairnet and a name tag.