The 'American Pie' series is no stranger to direct-to-video territory. In fact, for every theatrical feature, there has been one that went straight to disc. While the home video versions have featured somewhat familiar characters (usually Eugene Levy for some ungodly reason, a random Stifler sibling, and one time they even got Chris Owen to show up, wow!), they usually do well enough to keep the ball rolling, and after four of these titles in a row, it was decided to bring the crew back together for a reunion, of sorts. Even the most bit-part-ish characters are back, as the 1999 class of East Great Falls High is back in the gym that held their senior prom for their thirteenth...
And that right there marked the first (but hardly the last) time I called bullshit on 'American Reunion.' While I do believe there are still some viable stories to be told in this particular franchise before the teet is milked dry, the mere premise of this film had me up in arms before I even put the disc in the player. I get it, the original film (1999) and this newest release (2012) were thirteen years apart, but this is Hollywood. As films like 'Fired Up!' have proven, you can get thirty year olds to play high schoolers (albeit not as convincingly as twenty five year olds...ugh...), and it isn't exactly necessary to have characters play their parts as if it were exactly how many days since we last saw them on screen. Would it be that unbelievable if this film were set at the ten year reunion, since people actually have those and may be able to relate to the amount of change that happens in said period of time? Is there a single plot development in this film that requires three additional years to be tacked on for authenticity's sake, and if there were, would it not also work to just make it a fifteenth year reunion, since that, while somewhat clingy and pathetic, is at least viable and believable? Why are we being toyed with before the film even begins?!
So...Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) have brought a new life into this world, though they have finally hit a sexual rut that's affecting them both. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is a stay-at-home type dad and reality show addict/loser (these terms are, just as in real life, interchangeable), and Oz (Chris Klein) is a second-tier sports broadcaster who has hit fame due to an appearance in a dance-off show. Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), meanwhile, is as mysterious as ever, his ties to the group having been severed years ago. With the entire crew headed back to their old haunt, they encounter all the faces that have strayed over the years: the former loves, the friends who fell to the wayside, and even Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), the abusive jock struggling to manage in the adult world. After settling in, the guys see their bonds of friendship and even marriage tested, old flames rekindle, and...and...
And, seriously, who cares anymore? 'American Reunion' is a masturbatory film. There is no point to the film, other than an attempt to wax nostalgic and make money. The script is an absolute disaster, the chemistry between the actors is long gone (if it ever existed in some cases), and the gags just don't quite have the same effect, even if the ante is raised in an attempt to keep up with the more risque comedies that have come into prominence between theatrical features in this series. If one lives their life vicariously through the characters they see in film, then this may be the most important and relevant film to come out since, like, ever. However, if one really doesn't obsess about the exploits of a group of fictional people who have been off the big screen for a good nine years, then chances are this revival will be as openly welcomed as syphilis.
There is only one positive theme/idea in this entire film, and even it is buried, skimmed over as a way to bridge major set pieces. When the guys (and some of the gals) go to one of their old secret party locations, they find themselves the old people hanging out with a bunch of kids like the kids they once were. Some of these characters realize the immaturity of the situation and keep to themselves, rather than be the creepy old dudes trying to get with girls who were four or five years old when they graduated, while others let their genitals do the thinking for them. This moment would be a pivotal turning point, perhaps even one of realization, if the film were wise beyond its years and wanted to make a point and bridge generations. But, no, it's just the film's excuse to set up the major nudity angle in the film, and let me tell you, it's maybe one percent as memorable as Nadia's strip and rub down in the original...
Everyone is back. Great right? Wrong. Horrible. See, writer/director duo Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (the 'Harold and Kumar' films) claim to love this franchise, and they prove it by taking one steaming dump after another over every single character we remember. The way the film plays out, we have introduction after introduction, throughout the entire film. Never, ever do we catch up to multiple people we're familiar with at the same time, meaning every ten minutes or so there's another "oh, hey, it's (x character)! Wow, I wonder what they're up to?!" moment, where we get the scoop in a thirty second back and forth update conversation, and they're never to be seen again. It's like a shameless barrage of self-serving, terribly unfunny cameos that slow the film to a crawl due to the way they're thoughtlessly shoe-horned in.
The Oz and Heather (Mena Suvari) storyline is incredibly forced and not given room to breathe, and, let's face it, the fact that we see Chris Klein in a mock dance competition strutting his stuff makes for so much unintentional comedy that it's impossible to look at the character with a straight face. Michelle and Jim's plot is mostly teased but never realized, and the fact that Jim's mom is unceremoniously killed off so that Levy can have a few comedic scenes looking for a new mate is just tasteless. Finch's new romance plot never takes off since we're introduced to a new character (Dania Ramirez as Selena) who was never seen or mentioned but is suddenly an important part of the '99 class, and Kevin's plot with Vicky (Tara Reid) is painful to watch, and not due to how emotionally draining it is, as a hearty sneeze accomplishes more than their time on screen. The only really interesting story is that of Stifler, since his tale is the only one that matches up with reality, rather than cinematic melodrama.
'American Reunion' brings back the characters we grew to love, and gives us reason to hate them. That's not exactly how to revive a franchise, folks. We're not given any reason to see what's going on with these characters' lives, since what we see really could be done without. For example, we all could have gone without seeing Jason Biggs' dinklage, whether it's his or a prosthetic. The nudity in this film (in addition to Jim) is unsexy, the comedy a little stale and forced, at its best.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Universal brings 'American Reunion' to Blu-ray on a BD50 disc that pre-loads a number of trailers via BD-Live. Typical Universal menu navigation defaults to the theatrical cut of the film, but a press of a button prompts the unrated version of the flick. First pressings of this title include a slipcover that replicates the art and does nothing else. Seriously, it's just a piece of paper.
Presented in 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 encode, 'American Pie 8' isn't a bad looking title on Blu-ray. Detail levels are solid and consistent, with nary a soft shot in sight. That said, this isn't one of those constantly eye popping discs, but instead a passing (if unspectacular) viewing experience. Facial features are solid, and the picture is constantly deep, with lots of nice stray hair pops throughout the film. Skin tones are mostly random and a little on the yellow side, while hair (particularly Jim's) can be splotchy and undefined, sometimes crushing. There's some minor noise, a few dark shots that lose a bit of detail, and more than a few moments where black levels tend to be a bit less than, you know, black. Still, it's hard to complain when you can see peach fuzz forests on faces and a more than well-defined surrounding.
Yes, this disc features DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. No, it doesn't sound up to the par of most films put out today. Quite honestly, it doesn't sound up to the par of 'CSI: Grave Danger.' It's just not all that intriguing. I mean, the bass levels are appropriate (not quite powerful) in musical segments, but mid-film, there's very little coming from the subwoofer. Rears get only the tiniest bits of activity, mostly music bleeds. Dialogue is always understandable, though a few mumblers do make for some tough times understanding a line or two. Localized effects are rarely employed, but when they are they work quite well. It would have been nice if rear ambience happened when it was supposed to. It would have been nice if this somewhat big budgeted flick would have sounded like a film that had so much money it actually wanted to pay Tara Reid or Natasha Lyonne anything to show up.
This set includes an Unrated DVD disc, as well as an UltraViolet Digital Copy code. The Blu-ray itself includes both Theatrical and Extended cuts of the film.
'American Reunion' is a pointless, aimless cash-in on a long dead series. It brings back the entire cast of characters, giving most of them a single scene and no real payoff or purpose. It takes a real special film to out-suck the previous 'American Pie' sequels, but this one does it. Readily. Handily. A passable Blu-ray disc can't overcome the film's inherent failings. Heck, I doubt if a demo-worthy disc would make this one even worth a look or blind buy. Rent it, and forget it.