April 12, 2012

'American Reunion' not half-bad


---- — Teen sex comedies are usually, by definition, aimed at teenagers. "American Reunion," however, is that rare teen sex comedy that targets adults — particularly those who were teens in the '90s and fondly recall the original "American Pie" as some sort of touchstone film.

After two so-so Hollywood sequels with the same characters, then several dreadful direct-to-video efforts with mostly new faces, expectations were low for this final chapter, which pulls together the entire original cast for the first time in nine years.

Considering those expectations, "American Reunion" turned out to be not half-bad.

The franchise is no longer the raunchiest and no longer offers anything that we haven't seen before. It manages, however, to address grown-up problems and relationships — with a surprisingly heartfelt moment or two — while still throwing its characters into numerous juvenile situations involving the pursuit of sex.

"American Reunion" draws its original characters back with the gimmick of a 13th high-school reunion. Jim (Jason Biggs) is married to Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) — as per "American Wedding" — and they have a child. Mild-mannered Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is a motorcycle-riding man of the world. Hulking Oz (Chris Klein) is a minor TV celebrity. Bearded Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is a house husband.

Party animal Stifler (Seann William Scott), though, is still the same, trying to live life as if it was high school.

Including virtually everyone from the original movie requires some pointless scenes, and also emphasizes that there are some really terrible actors — we're looking at you, Tara Reid and Chris Klein — involved.

Biggs, though, is comfortable in his awkwardness and has superb chemistry with Hannigan, even as their characters navigate marital troubles. Scott also delivers the goods as the incorrigible near-lunatic Stifler.

The standout this time around, though, is veteran Eugene Levy, who steals every scene he's in as Jim's widowed dad, contemplating a return to the dating game.

"American Reunion" isn't a work of comedy genius by any stretch, but as a final chapter, it kind of works. The ending, though, opens up the chance of another sequel. We, as America, would just like to say "stop right there."

Rental Recommendation: Just before making a splash as Oz in the original "American Pie," Chris Klein co-stars as a dim-witted popular guy in "Election." Grade: A

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