American Reunion


Stifler's mom and Jim's dd - now why didn't I think of that?

Stifler’s mom and Jim’s dd – now why didn’t I think of that?

(2012) Comedy (Universal) Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Seann William Scott, Eugene Levy, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jennifer Coolidge, Natasha Lyonne, Shannon Elizabeth, John Cho, Dania Ramirez, Katrina Bowden, Jay Harrington, Ali Cobrin, Chris Owen, Neil Patrick Harris, Charlene Amoia. Directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg

When we’re in high school, we are different people than we are as adults. We lack the life experiences that we gain as adults so we look back at ourselves back then and cringe, generally speaking, at how awkward and naive we were. Still, most of us tend to look back at our time back then with some nostalgia – in our ignorance we are kings of the world with everything we could possibly desire still stretched out before us. Perhaps this is why reunions are such big business.

The gang at East Great Falls High are getting together for their 13th reunion – apparently they’re a bit fuzzy on the concept – and some of the boys are getting a head start on the festivities. Jim (Biggs) and Michelle (Hannigan) are married with a two-year-old son who takes up all of their time, leaving none for romance and (especially) sex. Jim’s dad (Levy) is a widower and hasn’t quite gotten over the passing of his wife.

Oz (Klein) is a sportscaster on a 24-hour sports network who famously had a meltdown on a Dancing With the Stars-like show. His relationship with his girlfriend is strained and he is suddenly brought face to face with just how hot Vicky (Reid) still is and that the torch he has held for her still burns brightly.

Kevin (Nichols) is a somewhat emasculated house-husband whose wife Ellie (Amoia) has essentially turned him into a shell of his former self – which isn’t exactly what she had in mind. Finch (Thomas) has managed to get out of East Great Falls and gone on a series of adventures in South America which makes his mates just a little bit jealous of the freedom that he still has in his life.

The one person not invited to their mini-reunion is Stifler (Scott) who has a crap job at a securities firm for a douchebag he can’t stand, but in all other ways he is still the same Stifler they all know and love – which is precisely why he wasn’t invited. His penchant for getting them into trouble is exactly what they don’t need as adults with their responsibilities spelled out.

In a bit of an uncomfortable twist, Jim’s next door neighbor Kara (Cobrin) whom he used to babysit for has just turned 18 and filled out rather nicely. She’s always had a thing for her babysitter (who hasn’t) and has decided that his return to town affords her the excellent opportunity to fulfill her own bucket list dream – to have Jim be the one to take her virginity.

None of them are the same people they were in high school and yet all of them have those people buried deep inside them. As the weekend goes on, they are forced to deal with the changes that growing up has wrought in their lives and struggle to find the bonds that tied them together in the first place. Still, those bond are strong and perhaps nothing can’t be solved when you have a dish of American Pie for desert.

Hurwitz and Schlossberg, who co-wrote and helmed the Harold and Kumar trilogy (and perform the same duties here) manage to capture much of the essential elements that made the first American Pie films work – the genuine bonds between the characters that have been made even more unbreakable by the passage of time.

While the first films were raunchy comedies about teens feeling their way through the minefield of sexuality with often varying results, this is a different kind of rite of passage. Having had the privilege of attending my own high school reunion earlier this summer, I’m perhaps in a more sanguine frame of mind when it comes to reviewing a movie about the subject – I get the nostalgia and the warm glow that comes from it. We tend to look back with rose colored glasses to a certain extent, glossing over the monotony of homework, the agony of broken hearts (and nothing is quite so unbearable as unrequited teenage love or worse, a broken teen romance) and the chafing against parental authority. Instead, we tend to focus on the friendships, the good times, the epic failures that were nevertheless noble for their audacity, and what it all meant.

Seeing this is a bit like a reunion for those who had a fondness for the first movie or its two sequels (there were four direct-to-video sequels but they featured essentially completely different casts). Most of the actors in it have gone on to careers with varying degrees of success but we can recall the characters pretty clearly particularly as introduced here. The actors seem to have developed bonds of their own for each other – the chemistry between them is the kind that comes from genuine affection rather than from the script. You can’t fake that kind of thing and it shows here that they don’t.

This is clearly an ensemble film and all of the characters are given their moments to shine; if you had favorites from the original films you won’t be disappointed with the amount of screen time they get. There are a number of references to the earlier films, enough that those who are unfamiliar with them might get a little lost.

Also, like the first films, there is some heavy raunchiness going on here and if that isn’t your thing chances are you aren’t going to be reading this review anyway since chances also are that you have no intention of seeing this or any of the other films in the series. Ever.

If you liked the other movies in the series, you’ll more than likely like this one too. If you didn’t, you won’t like this one either. The same elements are all here that made up those films – the sometimes uncomfortable wisdom passed on to Jim by his dad, the outrageous attitude of the Stifmeister, the sometimes awkward antics of Finch and Kevin and of course the gorgeous girls who have grown up to become gorgeous women.

I liked this a lot more than I expected to but looking back, I’m not sure why my expectations were so low to begin with. This isn’t rocket science, after all – this is life and the common experiences most of us share. Sure, we don’t necessarily have our sexual failures broadcast on YouTube or sleep with the moms of one of our best friends – at least I didn’t – but all of us have had some awkward moments dealing with sex and attraction as teenagers, and experienced the disappointment of our lives not turning out how we expected them to. Hopefully, you’ll be granted the wisdom to accept that however our lives turned out that they are what we make of them and that good friends and loving family will make them bearable no matter what.

WHY RENT THIS: Surprisingly warm and fuzzy. Nice to see “the gang” after so long.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Relies on crude humor like all the films in the series. Cliché-heavy. Too many references to previous films in the series for newcomers to jump comfortably in.

FAMILY VALUES:  Well, it’s crude. And obnoxious. There’s nudity, foul language and all sorts of sexual humor of varying degrees of grossness. There’s also some teen drinking and drug use.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Levy is the only actor to appear in all eight American Pie films including the direct-to-video ones.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: There’s a look at how the producers were able to re-assemble nearly all of the original cast, a mini-featurette focusing on the cast’s predilection for punching each other in the balls (I couldn’t make that up if I wanted to) and finally, an interactive yearbook in which you can click on various characters, find out information about them and see interviews with the actor who played them.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $235.0M on a $50M production budget.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Grosse Point Blank

FINAL RATING: 6/10

NEXT: The 13th Warrior

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New Releases for the Week of April 6, 2012


April 6, 2012

AMERICAN REUNION

(Universal) Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Tara Reid, Thomas Ian Nichols, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, Shannon Elizabeth. Directed by John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg

The kids of East Great Falls High have graduated and scattered to the four winds. Of all the couples that had come together ten years ago, only Jim and Michelle remain together, now married with a baby. That’s a far cry from band camp brother. In any case the whole gang is coming back home for the ten year reunion. It may be ten years gone from high school but these are friendships that endure a lifetime. The latest in the American Pie franchise.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sex Comedy

Rating: R (for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, language, brief drug use and teen drinking)

Coriolanus

(Weinstein) Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox.  A revered general of Rome is pushed into seeking the position of Consul. When he refuses to kiss tush with the masses, they refuse to support him. His anger prompts a riot which results in his expulsion. He winds up allying with his sworn enemy to take revenge on the city. This is the latest Shakespeare adaptation, updated into a modern setting and the directorial debut of Fiennes

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for some bloody violence)

Housefull 2

(Eros) Akshay Kumar, Asin, John Abraham, Jaqueline Fernandes. Four con men pose as rich prospective husbands for four brides. They all wind up living together under the same roof, causing much mistaken identity, much paternal hair-pulling and many spontaneous musical numbers.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

Intruders

(Millennium) Clive Owen, Carice van Houten, Pilar Lopez de Ayala, Daniel Bruhl.  The latest from visionary Spanish horror director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo follows two children in two different countries who are haunted by a being known only as Hollow Face. Nobody believes the children when they tell adults about what’s happening to them but as events begin to pile up there is no denying something beyond our understanding is going on.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Horror

Rating: R (for terror, horror violence, some sexuality/nudity and language)

Titanic 3D

(Paramount/Fox) Leonardo di Caprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, David Warner. The all-time box office champ and the winner of more Oscars than any other film in history gets the 3-D treatment. The ship still sinks.

See the trailer, clips and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Romance

Rating: PG-13 (for disaster-related peril and violence, nudity, sensuality and brief language)

We Need to Talk About Kevin

(Oscilloscope Laboratories) Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Ashley Gerasimovich. A mother must deal with the fall-out of her son’s heinous actions, as well as the ire of her community. Her relationship with her son is called into question as is her culpability in the acts that he committed. Swinton received a Golden Globe nomination for her role as the mother.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Rating: R (for disturbing violence and behavior, some sexuality and language)

My Best Friend’s Girl


My Best Friend's Girl

A case of beauty and the beast.

(Lionsgate) Dane Cook, Kate Hudson, Jason Biggs, Alec Baldwin, Lizzy Caplan, Diora Baird, Riki Lindholme, Faye Grant, Mini Anden, Hilary Pringle. Directed by Howard Deutch

From time to time when a romantic relationship is ended by one of the parties involved, it isn’t because of infidelity or abuse; it’s because the person ending the relationship thinks he or she can do better. When we are the ones being dumped, we fervently hope that they find out quickly how good they really had it.

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if you had someone help that particular education process along. Enter Tank Turner (Cook), customer service drone by day and relationship rescuer by night. He is hired by various guys who have been given their walking papers to date their exes and show them as bad a time as humanly possible so that they will run screaming out the door – and hopefully, back into the arms of the guys they just dumped.

Tank is exceedingly good at what he does – the date from hell thing, anyway or what his roommate calls “emotional terrorism.” He even has a list of ten obnoxious things he does to more effectively drive home the message that there are far worse guys out there than the loser she just left (and they are obviously losers, otherwise they wouldn’t have to pay someone to be worse than they are). Like anyone who knows how to drive a woman away, he also knows what is irresistible to them and so Tank does okay in the seduction department.

Tank’s roommate is his childhood friend Dustin (Biggs) who’s been going out with Alexis (Hudson) for a very long time. He REALLY wants to be with her forever, but for whatever reason she won’t commit to him. When she decides that she wants to end the relationship and explore other options, Dustin decides to utilize Tank’s service.

This wouldn’t be a romantic comedy if Tank didn’t wind up falling in love with Alexis, as she does with him. This really pisses off Dustin as you might imagine, who tosses Tank out on his ass, leaving Tank to commiserate with his father (Baldwin), a college professor who shows that the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree when it comes to his attitudes towards women.

I could go on about what happens next but you get the picture. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where this is leading and it takes either a high developed sense of curiosity or a particularly well-developed sense of self-loathing to care.

I don’t mind raunchiness, even for its own sake – it works well in movies like The Hangover and Hot Tub Time Machine. There needs to be either a commitment to just keep pushing the envelope, or some sort of semblance of charm to make it work, however; just recycling dick jokes, urination and vomit gags or judicious use of profanity aren’t enough to carry a movie.

Kate Hudson is a charming actress who not only resembles her mother but is actually tackling roles that her mom excelled at some 25 years ago; it seems criminal to me that she hasn’t really gotten the kind of part that would elevate her career, but quite frankly in the stampede to write the next Judd Apatow comedy I think there aren’t a lot of good roles for women being written and those that are get offered to a select group of actresses first.

There are a lot of online critics who regard Dane Cook with the same wary suspicion that one might regard a pit bull dripping foam from his jaws, but I’m not one of them. I like his standup routines and although I’m willing to admit his film career has been wildly uneven thus far, I’ve actually enjoyed his work in Dan in Real Life and Waiting. This won’t go down in history as one of his shining moments, but he does the best he can with a part that’s really unplayable.

This is the kind of movie that makes me gnash my teeth, not because it’s so bad but because it’s just good enough to tantalize me with the thought that it could have been better. It’s got a decent premise, a solid cast and a veteran director; what it doesn’t have is enough to fill in the gaps and keep the audience entertained the way the aforementioned movies did. There’s enough that I liked about My Best Friend’s Girl that I can recommend it to those who think Dane Cook RAWKS and to those who like raunchy sex comedies; to those who don’t like either you might want to think twice before renting this.

WHY RENT THIS: Hudson and Biggs aren’t bad actors and Alec Baldwin can make even a bad role seem better.  

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Decidedly un-funny and inescapably misogynistic, this movie is funnier in concept than it is in execution.

FAMILY VALUES: The raunch factor is fairly high with plenty of foul language, sexual suggestiveness and some nudity. Definitely not for the after-church crowd!

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In the scene where Cook grabs and squeezes Hudson’s behind, a stunt tush was used.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There are a whole lot of features ranging from Professor Turner’s system of rating girls to one on the usage of Boston as a location. If you are interested enough in the movie, you may find some of them notable.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Unknown White Male