The franchise has never pretended to want anything more than to recapture pretty much exactly that first magical moment -- complete with pot jokes, poop jokes, booby jokes, and yet another foreign exchange student joke.
American ReunionDirector: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Cast: Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Tara Reid
Studio: Universal Pictures
US date: 2012-04-06 (General release)
UK date: 2012-05-02 (General release)
-- Chad Ochocinco
"Play on, playah!" Early in American Reunion, Chad Ochocinco makes an appearance. He's seated at a sports news desk, playing himself opposite an interviewer, Oz (Chris Klein). The predictable point is to make Oz look clueless (as he is always), as he concludes the spot with a signature phrase, goofy face, and double-thumbs-up gesture.
As the camera cuts to Ochocinco's surprised and dismayed face, the scene cuts to Oz at home, where he finds his blondbikiniedgirlfriend (Katrina Bowden) in a hot tub with Deshaun (Raheem Babalola). Oz spends a moment trying to be jealous that she's in a tub "with another dude," until she reassures him that Deshaun is her interior decorator and he provides proof, an invitation to join them in the tub, followed by a display of his powerful butt cheeks. Here Oz is the one who looks surprised and dismayed.
Neither Ochocinco nor Deshaun shows up again in American Reunion. What are they doing here?
The easy answer is this: they expose what's obvious, that the franchise's anxious white boys are still anxious even 13 years out of high school. Oz and his buddies are interchangeable, equally horny and dim as they rehearse the same plot for the fourth time now. Each is reintroduced in a state of sexual-ish discomfort: where Oz acts out his version of racist-homosexual panic, Jim (Jason Biggs) slams his laptop onto his mid-masturbating penis (accompanied by R. Kelly's "Bump N' Grind"), Stifler (Seann William Scott) is busted by his very short boss, Mr. Duraiswamy (Vik Sahay) while masturbating with a photo of said boss' blond wife, and kitchen-bound Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) complains that his working wife makes him watch Real Housewives.
None of the white boys has achieved the sort of post-high school success and satisfaction he once imagined: even Oz's sports-guyness is sullied by his recent appearance on Celebrity Dance Off, instigated by the increasingly irritating blondbikiniedgirlfriend. By the time they all gather at their high school reunion -- where they are joined by boastful world traveler Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) -- their discontents seem desperate, leading directly to temptations. Thus: Jim is enchanted by vivaciously slow-motioned teenager Kara (Ali Cobrin), Finch by lovely townie Selena (Dania Ramirez), Oz by his ex Heather (Mena Suvari), and Kevin by his ex Vicky (Tara Reid).
Each white boy has his moment of revelation, preceded by several moments of confusion, stupidity, and nearly-caught-out-ness (Jim must deliver the naked teenager to her bedroom without being seen by her parents, Oz must re-pledge his love to Heather out of sight of the blondbikiniedgirlfriend, etc.). That's not to say they come to see themselves anew or as adults per se, but rather that they all pursue what they've already pursued, with varying degrees of achievement (Finch gets laid, Stifler gets revenge, and is cheered by the MLF Guys to boot). It can't be a surprise that Jim's dad (Eugene Levy), now widowed, is as slow and dopily lustful as his son or that Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) ends up with a flute in her hand.
It may be a given that the fourth film in a franchise featuring performers whose own careers never quite took off (Scott and Biggs being possible exceptions) delivers to low expectations. Yes, American Pie set in motion the formula for the R-rated raunchy white boys sex comedy we've all seen too many times now. And yes, the franchise has never pretended to want anything more than to recapture pretty much exactly that first magical moment -- complete with pot jokes, poop jokes, booby jokes, and yet another foreign exchange student joke.
But still, it's disappointing that American Reunion is so very poorly made, so unimaginative, and so sloppy, that is script is so careless and its editing so incoherent, that its delivery to low expectations is so... low.
And so the movie poses at least a couple of questions. One, can the raunchy white boys sex comedy be headed toward any sort of revelation of its own, that is, can it find a reason to exist? (You might guess the answer to that one.) And two, to repeat, what is Ochocinco up to? If this bit isn't nearly so risky physically as bull riding or racing a horse, it's an odd choice. Even if you'll never know what goes on in his mind, the shot of his surprise and dismay -- in this film at this moment -- reflects your own.