In 1978, National Lampoon’s “Animal House” revolutionized the hard R comedy and is still considered the “Citizen Kane” of the genre. The ’80s followed with numerous other college/teen-aged/sex comedies like “Porky’s,” “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” and “Revenge of the Nerds.” With some of these ’80s flicks like “Screwballs” and “Joysticks,” you could tell just how raunchy they were based on the title. The 1990s, however, was a rather tamed decade. A majority of ’90s comedies rarely embraced nudity and kept the major swear words to a limit. There were two movies that strived to be as vulgar and gleefully crude as the comedies of the ’80s though. One was “There’s Something About Mary.” The other was “American Pie.”
These surprise hits paved the way for many R-rated comedies of the 21st century, from “Old School” to “The Hangover,” to the Judd Apatow anthology. “American Pie” still holds up as a funny movie that even inspired two pretty good sequels, the second being my personal favorite. But after an assortment of straight-to-DVD movies, it looked like this franchise had officially run its course. How is it they got Eugene Levy to star in all four of those atrocities? Surely it couldn’t have been because of money. Either he’s a really nice guy or they had him under contract.
With a lot of movies about teenagers, people often wonder where these immature individuals will be in another 10 years. Even after the death of John Hughes, people are still praying to see a “Breakfast Club” reunion. In “American Reunion,” we finally get to see what Jim and the gang have been up to since 2003. While the end result is far from perfect, it is a humorous, nostalgic and satisfying return to some very likable characters.
Jason Biggs’ increasingly awkward Jim and Alyson Hannigan’s sexually confident Michelle now have a little boy. This puts a damper on their sex life. Chris Klein, who was absent from “American Wedding,” returns as Oz. He’s a big shot sports newscaster who was on a celebrity dancing show. While Oz is going out with a smoking-hot model, he’s still head over heels for Heather, his high school sweetheart played by Mena Suvari. Thomas Ian Nicholas is also back as Kevin, who is happily married to a woman obsessed with reality television. Then there’s Eddie Kaye Thomas’ Finch, who might be embellishing his post-graduation life.
Of course the character many want to see is Stifler, the sex-crazed, inconsiderately lovable jerk made famous by Seann William Scott. He’s the life of the party once again, stealing all of the film’s most memorable lines and moments. The filmmakers even add a level of emotional weight to Stifler this time around. Although he acts like the same old goof on the outside, deep down Stifler is struggling with the fact that all of his friends have matured while his life isn’t going anywhere. Stifler’s especially ashamed to be working as a temp at a law firm where he is bullied by the kind of nerd he would have tormented during adolescence. It’s a very factual representation of a party animal’s life after high school. Although it is a bit of a stretch that Stifler could maintain a job in an office. In reality he’d be fired in a second for sexual harassment.
Not every joke in “American Reunion” is a gem. There’s a limit to how many times we can endure Biggs’ humiliating himself. After a while you can’t help but start to feel sorry for the guy. What does work in the movie though, is quite hysterical. The funniest bits include the gang trying to return a passed-out, naked teen-aged girl to her room and Stifler taking revenge on some bullies. The simple, casual interactions between these characters are additionally appealing, reminding us all how great this cast truly is.
A notable standout this time around is John Cho, who had a minor role in the original “American Pie” as John aka MILF Guy No. 2. Now between the “Harold and Kumar” films, “Star Trek,” and various other projects, Cho has evolved into probably the most successful of the “American Pie” alumni. Who would have guessed that would happen 13 years ago?
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.