Movie Review: "AMERICAN REUNION"
Published: Friday, April 6, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 6, 2012 17:04
With “AMERICAN REUNION”, directors Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Hurwitz (of “HAROLD AND KUMAR” fame) aim to recapture the magic that made the masturbation jokes of 1999’s original slice so amusing. But mores have changed since then, and the crude jokes that inspired shock and awe back in the Clinton era are all but commonplace in our post-Apatow world.
Unfortunately, no one told the team behind this “REUNION”, because this latest effort is just more of the same – and the sight of things like a woman caught gratifying herself with a shower-head just isn’t the same now as it was then (hell, the aforementioned Apatow took that masturbatory sight gag and turned it into a full-fledged plot device for his debut, “THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN” – just in case you need proof of his superiority.) And while Sean William Scott’s exuberant performance as the infamous Stifler brings quite a few laughs to the gathering, it’s clearly still time to break up this party for good (and no, I’m not asking for a spinoff.)
Indeed, the biggest problem here is that, despite the heralded return of (almost) every original cast member, this comedy hasn’t evolved the slightest in 13 years; every single gag is a rehash. With the exception of Eugene Levy (who gets to drunkenly spurt gems like “The name’s Noah, motherfuckers”), everyone’s even playing the same exact roles they were last time – there’s not even an effort to pretend these people have grown between films.
And the worst part is that it’s not just the same characters, and it’s not just the same comedic style: it’s literally the same exact jokes. It’s as if the writing process consisted of nothing more than “Hey, wasn’t that funny when Jason Bigg’s Dad caught him jerking off? Let’s do that again,” or “I really laughed when Shannon Elizabeth spoke with a funny accent. So yeah, let’s do that.” This is a sequel in the vein of “COLOR OF MONEY” or “ROCKY BALBOA”, trying to coast off nothing more than warm memories of the original. But Eugene Levy finding his son’s issues of Penthouse is no “Adrian!”.
But the films not a total loss: even in a role that was past tired in Part II (not to mention beat to death by constant references in atrocious direct-to-video sequels,) Sean William Scott steals the show with an undeniably fun performance. There’s a palpable energy, an excitement, to everything he does, and it makes his every second on screen entertaining: whether it’s beating up a bunch of teenagers or hitting on every woman in sight in the sleaziest manner possible, Scott truly convinced me that he was really having fun.
And the script is smart enough to accommodate that, at least: it doesn’t even bother putting him through a boring ‘growing up’ arc, like each other member of the original 4 stars are forced through. It instead celebrates his juvenile tendencies, allowing his finest moment of triumph to be quitting his job and insulting his higher-ups; now content to remain a drunken mess. Look, is this worthy of his performance in “GOON”? Of course not. But I laughed over and over again anyway.
But despite Sean’s best efforts, this whole “REUNION” falls flat. It expects you to be nostalgic for things you probably never thought twice about (I realize Jason Bigg’s masturbatory adventures are funny, but have you really been dying to see them again?) and decides to coast on those memories rather than create its own. It wants to be an event movie, a nostalgic tour-de-force; but it feels closer to a spin-off TV special – lazily trading on nothing but past glories. It has laughs, sure – but not enough to excuse the 113-minute runtime nor the way it celebrates itself without a second of self-criticism. Instead of an event, it doesn’t even feel like a movie.