***1/2 (out of four)
Let’s get the obvious out of the way:
>> Tara Reid probably didn’t have to clear her schedule to return to the “American Pie” franchise.
>> “American Pie 2” stunk, and “American Wedding” wasn’t much better.
>> Perhaps no one would care if they never saw the Shermanator again.
Here’s the whopping surprise: “American Reunion” wraps up the series fittingly and funnily. You know that affliction that most comedies have, where they stop being hilarious with about 25 minutes left? In “American Reunion,” the fourth and best “American” installment, writers-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (writers of all three “Harold and Kumar” movies) have cured that problem. The laughs don’t stop.
Reconnecting in Michigan for their 13th reunion (no one coordinated the 10-year celebration for East Great Falls High), the crew returns older but not much wiser. Jim (Jason Biggs), now raising a 2-year-old with wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), continues to rack up a decade’s worth of awkward sexual experiences every week. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) suffers the emasculation of a wife fixated on girly TV garbage. TV star Oz (Chris Klein) wonders why he’s not happier with his stunning girlfriend (Katrina Bowden). Estranged Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) emerges from the abyss as a world traveler packed with exotic stories. And Stifler (Seann William Scott) seems like the same old loudmouth, but he’s actually a guy trying to ignore the disappointments of a wild youth that has turned into a mundane adulthood as a temp.
There are only so many times we need to see Jim get caught masturbating or wearing a goofy outfit or whatever. “American Reunion” maintains the series’ broad approach that felt fresh in ’99 but a bit outdated today. Yet save for the 5 millionth Chumbawumba joke recorded in the last few years, “Reunion” doesn’t always settle for the easiest, dumbest laugh. Besides being honest about teen sexuality and more mature about the crises of 30-somethings than “Friends with Kids,” this incredibly nostalgic movie also cranks out line after line that invite the brain to take time off and just enjoy something really, really funny.
Fortunately, part four still leaves room for the series’ foundation: An unexpectedly moving document of male friendship seen through the shenanigans that solidify bonds. Because—and don't act like this doesn't apply to you—no one wants to do very unsanitary things to a rival's cooler without their boys there for support.
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