American Reunion indulges in nostalgia

American Reunion is nothing without its roots — crumbly, crusty and sex-starved as they might be.

Before the age of Facebook and YouTube, an interconnected generation of unstoppably horny teens was given a realistic, hilarious depiction of the way most Gen Y high-schoolers worried about sex in 1999’s now-classic American Pie.

“This one time, at band camp,” apple pies, Stifler and MILFs all got their dues in the raunchy but well-received first installment of what became a successful trilogy of teen sex comedies that ended with American Wedding in 2003.

But forget pie. What’s more American than reboots and sequels that rob the source material of any originality or wit it had to begin with?

Luckily, American Reunion is spared from these pitfalls and keeps the charm of the original film intact. In the process, the film gives viewers a reunion no one asked for but is pretty darn easy to enjoy.

Though the gags and physical humor gave the first three movies broad appeal, it was the characters that made the story relatable — everyone could find a member of the virginity-busting gang or one of the supporting characters who seemed too real to merely be fictional. So when the entire gang — literally, the entire crew is here, despite the premise involving an oddly timed 13th reunion — shows back up in East Great Falls, it’s hard not to feel the same way that you did about the first few films, love ‘em or hate ‘em.

Writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (of the Harold and Kumar series) deftly revive American Pie writer Adam Herz’s original major characters, including the pact-holding quartet of Jim (Jason Biggs), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), Oz (Chris Klein) and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas).

The group’s problems, however, aren’t those of the classic teen comedy anymore. Instead, Jim’s got marital problems stemming from the bedroom, Oz is a sportscaster going through a midlife crisis, Finch seems to be a world traveler grounded for far too long and Kev is a kept man.

Faced with the possibility of reliving their glorious high school and college days, each is willing to immediately uproot for the weekend and return to the life of small-town Michigan. Unsurprisingly, obnoxious alpha-male Stifler (Sean William Scott) is there to meet them and is as ready as ever to throw a rager. Hijinks ensue, and though nothing quite approaches the pandemonium of Superbad or The Hangover that we’ve grown accustomed to in more contemporary R-rated comedies, it’s all good fun.

Surprisingly, the women who the five lusted after all through high school might as well be long-forgotten bit players. Apparently Hurwitz and Schlossberg watched a bit too much How I Met Your Mother when writing Allison Hannigan’s return as Jim’s former love interest — and now wife — Michelle, who has all but forgotten her band-geek chic and instead strikes almost identically to the Lily character she plays on the CBS comedy. Vicky (Tara Reid) and Heather (Mena Suvari) also return as shadows of their former selves, and though it is nice to see Reid back in action and looking healthy, she does not put up much of a fight in her few scenes.

More notably, Jim’s dad (Eugene Levy) is back once again to awkwardly dole out sage advice and help push plot points about moving on. In need of his own dating advice, he serves just as much a part of the overall message of the film as the rest of the gang.

With three Harold and Kumar films under their belts, Hurwitz and Schlossberg, who also co-directed the film, certainly know how to walk the audience through a complex narrative while keeping mayhem to a minimum, and to great comedic effect. Where Hurwitz and Schlossberg especially succeed is in supplanting the often-crude humor with a surprisingly compelling look into the trouble of moving on from high school and college once real life sets in.

There are times, however, — though give the film credit for trying — where the ploy to make the story more effecting than a simple teen comedy starts to unravel. Minutes go by as American Reunion tries to tie up each loose end with a sign that the characters have grown up a bit, and things get a bit boring in the process.

Thankfully, these lulls are picked up by perfectly timed references to the original film, including cameos from Natasha Lyonne as the ever-cynical Jessica and Jennifer Coolidge as Stifler’s mom of classic MILF fame.

American Pie came at a time when teen comedies needed a face-lift, and the shock Herz’s script provided the genre has been felt ever since. Now, more than a decade later, American Reunion is here to tell a different story — one that caters to the same generation, still makes penis jokes and still delivers a hilarious and raunchy ride with a side of genuine emotion and drama.