Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review: American Reunion

If you’re on the wrong side of thirty then you are probably old enough to remember one of my favorite Christmas classics – A Very Brady Christmas.  Go ahead; read it again.  It is not a typo.  I loved the heck out of that made for TV movie; and not because it was particularly well written - because it wasn’t - and not because it was telegenic art – because it most certainly was not.  The reason I enjoyed it so much was because it reached into the memory bank and brought me back to those grade school afternoons in front of the television set, which was always set to channel 56.  You see - there is something comforting about familiarity.  It’s like seeing an old friend or the house that you used to grow up in and immediately being whisked away to a better time and place.  It’s why the Brady reunion struck a chord with viewers, because seeing those familiar faces all in one place again evoked nostalgia. 

Writers/Directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg are clearly trying to corner the market on R-rated comedies as they have followed up the debacle that was Harold and Kumar 3D with American Reunion.  I am mildly relieved to say that the latter is a much better showing than the former, but things really could only have gotten better.  What they have working in their favor is nostalgia.  It’s all they really have going for them.  It’s their hook, because the latest and hopefully last installment in the series features the entire original cast.  No ringers, no bate and switches, and no poor man’s doppelganger.  That gives the movie a big event feel, even though most of the cast have not only seen their stars fade immensely but some are straight up reclamations projects.

As for what ails this film, the problems are three-fold.  The first is that there is too much going on.  Each member of the principle cast has to have a reason for returning to a 13 year high school reunion (and thus appearing in the film).  Because of this, we are left with a web of spaghetti-thin plot lines woven into a tangled mess.  Sure, sentimentality and the ease with which Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, et al slide back into their roles makes the plot a bit more palatable, but it is just not enough to overcome the second problem, which is the recycling of the Stifler redemption storyline.  The “Stifler has not moved on and has not realized that time has passed him by” storyline was done in American Wedding but I am guessing that the writers assumed they could get away with recycling it since so few saw that film.  The third problem is that it is just not that funny.  The jokes were stale and delivered by a cast that - to be honest - looked a little too weathered to deliver the punch lines. 

It’s not a waste of time to watch this movie especially if you’re a fan of the previous films.  It’s just not a great use of your time.  If the comfort of familiarity and nostalgia is what you seek and you are okay with knowing that Hurwitz and Schlossberg often deliver raunch in lieu of real comedy then you will be entertained.  If you’re a casual fan and prefer sharp and witty humor, you should probably save this for a rental.  The novelty of seeing older versions of the characters you once knew, can only last so long when one's affinity for those characters is measured.

Standout Performance:  Eugene Levy - a fantastic comedic veteran – is given a larger role in this film and is responsible for nearly all of the few laugh out loud moments that in the film.  


  1. I liked this one a lot more than the other sequels but I will admit that it still could have been a lot better. It was great to have these characters all back together again though and I think that’s where the film really worked for me. Total nostalgia. Good review.