Back in 1999, American Pie was a pretty funny comedy of horny youth anxiety. But it was also a sweet slice of teenage B-movie nostalgia that brought off the neat trick of looking forward and back at the same time. The picture paid affectionate homage to Porky’s (1982) and all the other harmlessly scurrilous virgins-getting-laid farces of the ’80s. Yet it also took a generational leap: The famous scene in which Jason Biggs slapped his ass as he did a hilariously embarrassing strip dance, only to learn his antics had been beamed all over the Internet, advertised the new technology and the new attitude that went with it — one in which boys, like girls, were now going to see themselves as sex objects. The joke of American Pie was that the peepers would now be peeped on.
After the flavorless American Pie 2 (2001) and the downright stale American Wedding (2003), the joke, it seemed, was squeezed dry. So why would anyone want to see American Reunion, which reassembles those sexually hapless boys 13 years later? As it turns out, the recipe has been updated, and what once seemed like fatally warmed-over Pie tastes new again. Biggs’ Jim Levenstein, now the beleaguered dad of a toddler, has been reduced to sneaking in glimpses at porn sites while his wife, Michelle (the ever-adorable Alyson Hannigan), pleasures herself in the bathtub. The frustration of two parents trapped in a dead zone of masturbation may well be rote comedy fodder. But when Jim gets together with his old pals on the eve of a high school reunion, and we learn that most of them are in steady relationships that can’t keep up with their libidos, the film’s theme comes to the fore. American Reunion is about the comedy of middle-class men who can’t be satisfied with sex until it looks like porn.
And so it is that Jim is set upon by Kara, a high school girl he used to babysit, and the temptation keeps generating laughs. Ali Cobrin, who plays her, has the slightly dazed sparkle of the young Liz Taylor, and Biggs, with his awkward frown-smile, turns his face into a rubbery billboard of pain and desire. Chris Klein’s Oz hasn’t aged as well: He’s now a leathery sportscaster with a trophy-shrew girlfriend (Katrina Bowden) and the dubious claim to fame of an appearance on Celebrity Dance-Off, and Klein never alters his look of stoic abashment. Thomas Ian Nicholas and Eddie Kaye Thomas give off even more of a we’re-happy-to-have-this-paycheck vibe, but Seann William Scott grabs the film like a sex toy he won’t let go of. He makes Stifler, who has never grown up, into more than just the movie’s id — he’s its violently arrested soul. Then there’s the great Eugene Levy. As Jim’s widowed father, so uptight he’s a Talmudic dweeb of pleasure, he gets to let loose in ways that are just dirty enough to make him feel like he’s being punished. When his initiation into the ways of raunch is complete, he announces, “I honestly think I had fun.” After American Reunion, I can say the same thing. B