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American Reunion

(2012) ** R
113 min. Universal Studios. Directors: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg. Cast: Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, Natasha Lyonne, John Cho.

/content/films/4304/1.jpgAt least for a while, it’s tempting to think of American Reunion—the third big-screen sequel to the 1999 sex comedy American Pie—as having subversive potential. With its R-rated raunch, American Reunion will pull in a large number of teens to experience a story that’s largely about the vagaries of life after thirty.

The notion of randy high-schoolers looking into a cinematic crystal ball to find stale marriages, dead-end jobs, and a dispiriting high school reunion may be an intriguing social experiment, but the impact is predictably mitigated by a parade of boobs, “f”-bombs, and reassurances that there’ll always be sexual escapades, (now over-age) drinking, law-breaking adventures, and friends and family to keep the party going.

On the occasion of their thirteenth (yeah, whatever) East Great Falls High School reunion, the gang’s all here, beginning with Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) and wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan); their marriage with kids is stuck in a sexual rut, the better to precipitate a masturbation-disaster sequence. Swiftly, we’re caught up with old familiar faces: Oz (Chris Klein), the embarrassed star of “Celebrity Dance-Off” Season Six whose wild wife has him on the ropes; hipper-than-thou Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas); the thoroughly domesticized Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and, of course, the Eddie Haskell-from-hell Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), still a secretly insecure hellraiser despite the tug of responsibility.

The women (Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, Natasha Lyonne) are back, but briefly, and strictly as emotional foils for the confused and conflicted men. There’s also the elder generation to consider—Jennifer Coolidge as Stifler’s mom at last bonds with Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy)—and a younger one destined to make the reunited friends feel old and ensnare them in trouble. Principal among the new crop of teens is nubile and up-for-it Kara (Ali Cobrin), just turned eighteen, who sets her sights on losing her virginity with her old babysitter Jim.

Infidelity is the story’s main bugaboo, allowing for some light farce (there’s also a suggestion of wife-swapping at one point). And the situation comedy dreamed up for the characters has a sort of comfort-food familiarity about it: Jim’s Dad remains embarrassingly frank about sex and Jim always stumbles his way into compromising situations, while Stifler doles out outrageous embarrassments, gets his comeuppance, but somehow everyone just has to love him anyway.

Still, predictability is the fatal flaw of any American sequel, and while this one comes closest in tone to the original film, that’s a decidedly double-edged sword. Written and directed by Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg, the sequel shares much in common with their Harold & Kumar franchise (including John Cho, proudly returning here as “MILF Guy #2”), but American Reunion is such a loving tribute to American Pie that it may bring a tear to the eye of die-hard fans, an achievement that’s not to be pooped on.

[This review first appeared in Palo Alto Weekly.]

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