American Reunion almost opens with an acknowledgement of just how stupid this whole thing is, which is kind of it. The rather more sensible TEN year reunion of Jim shagging that pie passed everyone (including savvy film producers) by, so instead – it becomes clear – we’re all gathered to celebrate that famous milestone: thirteen years since graduation. Why would this year be significant to any of the characters? Well it just is. To all of them. Separately. Why? SHUT UP, WHO THE HELL CARES ABOUT BORING REASON THINGS THIS IS ABOUT LADS HAVING A BLOODY GOOD TIME WITH THE LADS, RIGHT? Calm the fuck down you plot-loving killjoys; who gives a shit? No-one. Literally no-one gives a shit.
So it looks like time hasn’t been too kind to our favourite hump-seekers. Jim and Michelle’s sex life is in a rut no amount of rutting can fix, Oz is banging some girl who is so warm all the time that she can’t wear clothes (a medical condition never mentioned but always simmering ominously in the background), the one with the beard now is married to someone who isn’t Tara Reid and Stifler is in those scenes that would be deliriously offensive if it weren’t for the fact that this is the 90s again. Deciding to re-ignite their sex life by attending the Reunion To Rule Them All (faultless logic), Jim, Michelle and their two year old son move back in with Jim’s Dad for the weekend. Why there? You know the reason. It’s Jim’s Dad. And those sticky magazine pages aren’t going to unexpectedly mention themselves.
The problem is though, there’s an 18 year old girl next door. And if there’s one thing we’ve learnt about men, it’s that they don’t actually care about anything that isn’t an 18 year old girl. JIM SOON FINDS HIMSELF IN A DILEMMA: does he have loads of sex with his wife in order to save his marriage, or hang out with 18 year old girls in soft-focus bikinis? It’s a quandary only Being A Total Bastard can solve, and surprising no-one, Jim, Oz, Stifler, other bloke and Finch soon find themselves in exactly all the same situations they found themselves in aged 16, only this time they’re 35, and the reek of weary desperation threatens to overtake even that of springy Sambuca pussy.
The thing about American Reunion is that it relies entirely, ENTIRELY on its nostalgia factor in order to hit every single objective. Well, that and Occasional Shot Of Breast. The jokes are crude, dumb, stupid and entirely recognisable, the character interactions are crude, dumb, stupid and entirely recognisable, the plot arc is crude, dumb, stupid and – I’d go on but chances are you lost interest when you realised there aren’t any breasts at the end of this sentence. But in itself that isn’t particularly offensive (I mean, it is, obviously, but stay with me), the most offensive thing about American Reunion is that it feeds you an hour and a half of gleeful, base, mindless teen fodder (GIRL BOOBS! POO JOKES! THINGS CRASHING! FALLING DOWN!) and then slaps you on the wrist for buying into any of it to begin with. OF COURSE Jim should stay with his wife! OF COURSE slutty girls aren’t the girls men love! OF COURSE you shouldn’t have sex with an almost unconscious teenager, you silly thing! But, then again, is there any harm in staring hungrily at her breasts for 15 minutes or so before we tuck her into bed?
Needless to say, the girls we know hardly get a look in – being that they’re now over 25 they are unfit for much screen-time. Alyson Hannigan floats absent-mindedly through both her lines (“no no, you go have fun” and the one about band camp), Mena Suvari looks disapprovingly at everyone and the bafflingly talentless Tara Reid struggles not to reveal the alien controlling her cold, stiff corpse. The boys all breeze through the only roles they’ve ever played with increasingly forced ease – never quite escaping the fact that every familiar joke they shout only reminds us that when they last spoke them their careers stretched ahead rather than behind. The stupidity that resonated joyfully when these characters (not to mention the majority of the built-in audience) were teenagers just doesn’t fit on these man-children, and you’re left with an air of real sourness – a feeling that behind every braying laugh there’s frantic desperation, a wild look that says ‘HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? HOW? HOW DID I END UP HERE IN THIS T-SHIRT DOING THIS AGAIN?’
Unable to build to any kind of climax seeing as there isn’t so much a story as there is a series of cliche tick-boxes, instead we’re bombarded with lack-lustre cameos in the final ten minutes, the makers presumably hoping that the audience is stupid enough to mistake “recognising a face” for “enjoying a scene”. People have sex, someone gets punched, the music plays and the camera swirls. It’s a perfect end to a story we all outgrew ten years ago; a hanging high five you only hit to save everyone embarrassment. Thing is, we’re past all this. Didn’t you see 21 Jump Street? Bridesmaids? Even The Hangover, for christ-sakes? Proper Good gross-out comedy is alive and well, and in the right hands its a genre that’s as joyful, silly and ridiculous as ever it was. It could be the best examples are more grown-up than their 90s equivalents, but funnily enough that doesn’t half make films like American Reunion look ancient.