American Reunion is like a movie that's become a zombie: a franchise that has risen from the grave of straight-to-video sequels to bring back the no-longer-youthful original cast for one more (hopefully lucrative) go-round.
The stench of desperation permeates this film, a sequel to American Pie, the 1999 gross-out hit, and its many offspring. This one tries to recapture the same inappropriate zest as the original, whose biggest moment involved poor Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) caught in the act of having masturbatory sex with a fresh apple pie by his hilariously horrified father (the masterful Eugene Levy).
Levy still offers the comic high points of American Reunion, a film built around the Class of '99's 13th high-school reunion (since they never got it together to have a 10th). Each of the original gang shows up with secrets and baggage, aimed at inducing gasps of surprised laughter.
But the bar has been raised significantly since the release of the original (and overrated) American Pie, a film which didn't set the bar all that high to begin with. The Harold & Kumar movies far eclipsed American Pie in the ability to be nasty, smart and gross, all at the same time.
Where are they now? Jim and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are married, but their sex life is suffering since the birth of their 2-year-old son. Oz (Chris Klein) is a star on a ESPN-wannabe cable network best known for losing to Gilbert Gottfried on a Dancing with the Stars-like show. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is a married house-husband with a roving eye for his old girlfriend Vicky (a scary-looking Tara Reid). Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), he of the irritable bowel, comes back on a motorcycle with tales of Bohemian adventures circling the globe. And Stifler (Seann William Scott) is an underling at a investment office who still lives with his mom (Jennifer Coolidge).
Do you really need more? The jokes practically write themselves -- or they would, were this film in the hands of competent jokesmiths. But no -- the two biggest visual gags in the film involve seeing Biggs' penis and showing Scott taking a dump into the beer cooler of some rowdy teens. How do they come up with this stuff?
Put it this way: The original cast of American Pie -- with the exception of Levy and Coolidge -- have gone on to undistinguished careers. A few of them have been able to manage minimal notoriety for their off-screen antics, i.e., run-ins with the law, rehab, accidental public nudity and the like. None of them has set the movie world on fire or is likely to.
So, of course, it makes sense for them to reunite in the vehicle that first gave them lift-off. Unfortunately, American Reunion isn't the vehicle to finally put them into orbit.
Find more reviews, interviews and commentary on my website.
Follow Marshall Fine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hollywoodnfine