Nine years after their last outing American Wedding, and a full, frankly terrifying 13 after the first film in the series American Pie, Jim (Jason Biggs) and the crew return for a ‘just the same but brand new’ romp which looks at how the guys are coping with the many vagaries of regular-guy adulthood.
We pick up with Jim, now father to a young child, and ensconced in a sexless marriage with erstwhile band camp honey Michelle (Alyson Hannigan). The masturbatory excesses inspired by their barren domestic predicament are demonstrated in an opening scene of brutally tasteless slapstick which, as one might expect, pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the film. If you find the prospect of an infant child with his dad’s wanking sock draped over his face funny, you’ll be OK.
Jim sees an opportunity to unwind with the forthcoming high school reunion, and it’s not long before we’re re-introduced to the crew of old; Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is bearded, successful and with a beautiful lady; eccentric Paul (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is spilling over with vague, improbable tales of international adventure; and hunky Chris (Chris Klein), the sensitive choirboy jock is now a popular-but-cheesy sportscaster. Oh, and of course, there’s manic manchild Stifler (Seann William Scott), now an office temp presided over by a fey, domineering boss. As anybody with any sense surely would, the guys do their utmost to avoid the Stifmeister, with limited success.
What follows is a largely predictable compendium of gross-out humour, a college-rock saturated soundtrack, and various shallow-arced journeys toward self-knowledge, punctuated by one or two would-be arch, postmodern nods to generational disparity. As ever, the best thing here is Scott’s wild-eyed turn as Stifler. He’s effectively the film’s wrecking ball; whatever’s happening, however unpleasant or mawkish, all he has to do is appear onscreen to provoke a laugh. Whether it’s mercilessly bashing a double-entendre into a single one, or shitting into a beer cooler, he’s the film’s comic heart. Further enjoyment is provided by the redoubtable Eugene Levy as Jim’s dad, one or two predictable but amusing cameos, and a surprisingly decent minor turn from Tara Reid as Kevin’s ex, Vicky.
However, while no-one will be surprised by frequent swerves toward the grotesque and amoral, genuine alarm is caused by the film’s treatment of women. In the first film(s), the girls had significant screen time, and even some half-decent characterization. There’s no such parity here, sadly. It comprehensively flunks the the Bechdel Test, (a handy barometer which names the following three criteria for a film for which to pass: it has to have at least two women in it who talk to each other about something besides a man). While it stops just short of the misogynistic viciousness of the likes of The Hangover films, much here leaves a bad taste in the mouth, not least the weirdly conservative agenda that makes women the source of the majority of the men’s problems rather than their own ineptitude, yet punishes them for expressing themselves sexually (Your inner/outer feminist will explode with rage at the treatment meted out to the character of Kara, Jim’s ex-babysitee). The less said about the ugly duckling-turned-stereotyped “spicy Latina” Trisha (Dania Ramirez) who falls hook, line and sinker for Paul’s swashbuckling colonial-lite tales, the better. It’s only really the spirited Michelle that saves the day in this respect.
Ultimately American Reunion, while almost wholly unnecessary as an endeavour, is just about what you’d expect. There’s a few laughs and a few vaguely sweet moments along the way, and it will certainly represent a worthwhile nostalgia trip for viewers of a certain age and constitution. Really, the film itself is a bit like how one might imagine the experience of hanging out with Stifler. It’s initially relatively entertaining, a little bit lovable, frequently disgusting, and when it’s over you won’t be in any hurry to repeat it.
American Reunion is in cinemas now. A version of this article originally appeared on the website The 405.