Indeed, filthy and outrageous things happen in this movie. Stiffler defecates in the beer cooler of some mean teenagers (yes, mean teenagers) and the head mean teen sticks his hand in it. Jim's newly hot 18-year-old next door neighbor runs around topless for an amount of time that made me feel bad for the young actress hoodwinked into doing this. (Remember Shannon Elizabeth!) And, most surprisingly, we get an almost lingering look at Jim's penis squished grotesquely under a glass pot lid. So the movie "goes there," and there is absolutely some giddy verve to these wild scenes. But, strangely, they really aren't the main focal points of this movie. No those belong to the more earnest and wistful moments. The gross-out scenes actually seem almost like afterthoughts, as if this cheesy nostalgic script was written and then they remembered that, oh yeah, people come here for body fluids and dick japes. All these grownups, these real adults (Alyson Hannigan, who plays Jim's wife, is 38 years old) are respectably game, but the thing feels tired despite their best efforts. So when this movie isn't sad, it's tired. Not a great combination.
Just about all the old cast shows up at some point throughout the movie, some with bigger parts than others. There's Mena Suvari tempting Klein with her bland safeness. There's Tara Reid being Tara Reid for the guy whose character has something to do with Tara Reid. There's the MILF guy and, uh, the Sherminator, and... sigh. This movie sadly relies on all of us to have really treasured these old characters and jokes in a way that feels a bit presumptuous. Or at least embarrassing. Was American Pie, with its corny white Aéropostale sensibility, really such a cultural touchstone? Have we really invested ourselves so deeply in these guys that we care what they're doing now that they're not fancy-free teens or college students anymore? American Reunion feels almost like medicine, like they're forcing those of us in a certain age group (people like me who were teenagers when the original came out and are now skirting both edges of 30) to get their dose of reality and mortality. Yes, we're all getting older. We know. Did we need Jim and company, those dudes from that comedy once, to come back to remind us, in occasionally hideous fashion? Was it necessary to kill off Jim's mom just so, I dunno, Eugene Levy could have a few comedy scenes? I don't think so! No thank you. You guys all seem nice enough, but we're good. We don't need any reminding. We respect the effort, but it's wholly unnecessary.
So, goodbye, American Pie. Lose our address. Don't send us anything about the next reunion. We don't know when it is, but we already know we can't make it. We've got lives, you know.
From the horrors of faded youth to the irritatingness of current youth, we move to the campus of Seven Oaks, the fictional top-tier college dreamed up by Whit Stillman for his new film Damsels In Distress. Like American Pie, Stillman's last film (The Last Days of Disco) came out in the late '90s, so it's been a very long wait for fans of his talky, stagey, specific work. I must confess I am not one of those people, so if you're looking for some sort of dialectic comparing this latest film to the ideas and themes in Metropolitan or Barcelona, you should probably look elsewhere. For the rest of you, let it be known that Damsels, for all of its obvious smarts and appealing actors and flirty music, is a bizarrely off-tone and unpleasant picture.