As near as I can figure, the plot in “American Reunion” is that the people who own the rights to the “American Pie” franchise wanted to make another movie and didn’t particularly care whether that movie had a plot. Why bother with a story when all you need to do is re-create moments from the previous films?
And so here is this uninspired parade of raunchy tropes, in which the entire cast is reunited under new writers/directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (the “Harold & Kumar” guys) and given a to-do list that could just read “ditto.” Jim (Jason Biggs) endures some kind of humiliating genital trauma and has embarrassing sexual conversations with his dad (Eugene Levy); Stifler (Seann William Scott) is cheerfully vulgar and abrasive in his attempts to score with young ladies; Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) mentions going to band camp and proves to be more sexually adventurous than might have been supposed; Stifler’s mom (Jennifer Coolidge) is a sexpot; an attractive young actress’ breasts are prominently featured; somebody gets poop on them; etc.
These are all fine things to include in a raunchy comedy, of course, and they were generally pretty funny when we saw them in “American Pie” (1999), “American Pie 2” (2001), and “American Wedding” (2003). (We are disregarding the four straight-to-DVD quasi-sequels that had none of the original main characters.) The first film, especially, wasn’t just dirty; it had some genuinely sharp writing and performances. Now it has devolved into a crass sitcom — I kept thinking of “Two and a Half Men” — where the dirtiness is the joke. We’re supposed to laugh because someone said a no-no word.
The class of 1999 is holding a 13-year reunion, and everyone’s coming home to celebrate! (The characters are aware that 13 is a weird number for a high school reunion, but no attempt is made to explain it.) Jim and Michelle have a 2-year-old son and have allowed their marriage to grow a little stagnant, a plot device you might recognize from every other comedy ever made about a married couple with young children. Oz (Chris Klein) is a successful L.A. sportscaster with a hot girlfriend (Katrina Bowden), but he might still have feelings for Heather (Mena Suvari). Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is a domesticated househusband with a hot wife (Charlene Amoia), but he fears he will rekindle his spark with Vicky (Tara Reid). Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has been living a mysterious life of world travel. Stifler is still Stifler.
Apart from those just mentioned, most of the returning cast members are here just so we’ll say, “Hey, look, it’s So-and-So” (John Cho! Natasha Lyonne! Shannon Elizabeth! Chris Owen!), and not because Hurwitz and Schlossberg had any humorous ideas for how to use them. And that plays into the film’s primary reason for existence: nostalgia. It sounds odd to be nostalgic for something that only happened 13 years ago, but “American Pie” was a cultural touchstone for a lot of Millennials, so you can understand why “American Reunion” would spend so much time reminding us of the kooky shenanigans from the previous films. I just wish they had come up with better comic scenarios for these 31-year-old characters.
Stifler is still the funniest one, operating on pure, unbridled Id and self-gratification. Jim’s dad and Stifler’s mom also contribute some laughs. Heck, everybody has a moment or two. (Maybe not Oz. Was Chris Klein always such a jaw-droppingly incompetent actor?) It isn’t that “American Reunion” is unenjoyable. It’s just perfunctory. If you can’t think of a better excuse to get together, maybe you shouldn’t get together.
C- (1 hr., 53 min.; )