'American Reunion' relies on cliches, melodrama

You probably haven't been lying awake in bed at night wondering whatever became of Stifler and Oz and the rest of the horny kids from the original "American Pie" movie.

Yet here they are, after 13 years and a couple of sequels, in "American Reunion." And they're more bland than bawdy these days.

That's part of the joke: that they (and we) aren't in high school anymore, that we all have to grow up and function as adults with responsibilities and whatnot. We can't spend all our time thinking lascivious thoughts about pastry. That's just adolescent.

But that doesn't make for a very fun or funny movie; instead, "American Reunion" relies on cliches about nostalgia, forced tension over strained friendships and melodrama about the rekindling of first loves.

Jim and Michelle (Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan) are now married with a 2-year-old son and zero sex life. But they return to their Michigan hometown for a 10-year high school reunion that's being staged three years late because supposedly no one could get their act together on time. It's a plot contrivance, leave it at that.

There they run into the old gang, including Chris Klein as Oz, who's now a slick sports anchor, Eddie Kaye Thomas as the sophisticated Finch and Seann William Scott as Stifler, who's still ... Stifler. Tara Reid and Mena Suvari show up as personality-free blond robots Vicky and Heather, respectively. And really, the women get short shrift here. They're either boring good girls or sexually aggressive nymphets, with no shadings of substance or complexity in between.

"Harold & Kumar" creators Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg take over as writers and directors, but the sense of unpredictability that infused their own franchise never surfaces here. Plus, this kind of raunchy, hard-R comedy has been done -- and done better -- countless times since "American Pie" debuted and seemed fresh in 1999. Movies such as "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and even the recent flick "Goon" (which also stars Scott) have found a way to push boundaries more daringly .

"American Reunion" achieves neither of these extremes, and playing intrusive, cloying music to signal that certain moments are supposed to be special isn't terribly persuasive. The few moments the film gets right -- which is true of the whole series -- involve Eugene Levy as Jim's awkward but well-intentioned dad. A grieving widower, he misses his son and longs for the companionship of a woman once more.

He has a couple of moments with Stifler and even with the notorious Stifler's mom (Jennifer Coolidge, brash as ever) which bring a temporary loveliness to the proceedings. Then again he also has to go through the obligatory trying-on-clothes montage as he prepares to take a photo for his online dating profile -- yet another cliche.


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