Video Verdict: ‘American Reunion’

From left to right, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Chris Klein and Eddie Kaye Thomas star in “American Reunion.”

Movie studios seem to be enjoying down time in the wake of the Independence Day holiday, as only one major theatrical release is coming to video this week.

American Reunion

2 stars (out of four)
Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, language, brief drug use and teen drinking
Universal
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and on demand

It’s natural for people to feel an affinity for favorite movie characters, and it can be particularly interesting to follow them through major life changes. “American Reunion,” the latest addition to the “American Pie” franchise, exists for just that reason. The movie is set about a decade after 2003’s “American Wedding,” and it brings the old gang back together for a high school reunion.

A lot has happened since moviegoers last saw these characters. Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are now harried parents, doing their best to raise a two-year old. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is married and settled into domestic life. Oz (Chris Klein) has had tremendous success as a Los Angeles-based sportscaster. And Finch seems to be living a life of mystery and adventure. In fact, the only member of the group who isn’t showing signs of age is eternal party boy Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott).

It wouldn’t be much of a movie – and certainly not an “American Pie” movie – if the writing-directing team of Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (“Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay”) were content to simply meditate on what it means to mature. So, they put the characters in a variety of challenging situations, many of them sexual in nature. Unfortunately, they fail to recapture the magic of the earlier movies, particularly the first two.

This older, wiser version of “American Pie” simply isn’t as funny or charming as the earlier movies. Much of the problem is a lackluster script that meditates on ideas that most of us have seen before. There are scenes where Jim and Michelle struggle to keep the passion in their marriage despite the pressures of parenthood. There are also the obligatory bits where characters meet up with their old flames.

The best parts of “American Reunion” are those that forget about the age of the characters and create nostalgia for the earlier films. And, unsurprisingly, many of these sections focus on the antics of Stifler. Seann William Scott has played a lot of characters over the years, but Stifler is still his most memorable.

As flat as “American Reunion” is, it’s fun to see Stifler and his old gang back in action. It’s just too bad the group didn’t have a better script to work with.

Both the DVD and Blu-ray releases include rated and unrated versions of the film. Other extras include a gag reel, deleted scenes, making-of shorts and an audio commentary with Hurwitz and Schlossberg.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Adventure Time” – The Complete First Season: First 26 episodes of the Emmy-nominated animated series that became a hit on Cartoon Network. The fantasy-based show is centered on the escapades of a teen boy and a magical dog living in a post-apocalyptic world. Along with every first-season episode, this two-disc release includes featurettes, commentary tracks and additional extras.

“The Flowers of War”: Historical drama about a group of people – including an American mortician (Christian Bale) – who take refuge in a Catholic church during the 1937 Nanking Massacre. The movie – directed by Yimou Zhang – is presented in Chinese with English subtitles, and it was nominated for best foreign language film at the Golden Globes.

“Margaret”: Long-delayed drama about a teen (Anna Paquin) whose involvement in a bus accident irrevocably changes her life. Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Kieran Culkin, Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno also star. Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan.

“You’re Nobody ’til Somebody Kills You”: Thriller focused on two New York City detectives trying to stop a serial killer who is targeting hip-hop stars. James McDaniel, Michael Mosley, Chance Kelly and Big Daddy Kane star. Directed by Michael A. Pinckney.

“The Big Bang Theory” – The Complete Second Season: Twenty-three episodes of the hit CBS comedy about nerdy physicists (Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons) living next door to a blonde bombshell (Kaley Cuoco).

“Chariots of Fire”: The 1981 best picture Oscar winner is making it’s way to Blu-ray for the first time. The movie tells the story of two runners competing in the 1924 Olympics. Ben Cross and Ian Charleson star. Directed by Hugh Hudson.

“G.I. Joe – A Real American Hero” – Series 2, Season 2: Twenty episodes of the 1980s animated series inspired by Hasbro’s line of military toys. The plotting centers on highly skilled American soldiers doing battle against the evil Cobra organization.

“JEM and the Holograms” – Season Three: Final season of the animated, 1980s show about a music company owner and her band.

– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. For more of his work visit http://www.ForrestHartman.com. E-mail him at forrest@forresthartman.com.

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