At the Movies: A return to the good old days with 'American Reunion'

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

“American Reunion”

2.5 out of 4 stars

113 minutes

Starring: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Seann William Scott and Eugene Levy

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Carmike Chief Plaza 4 in Steamboat Springs.

Crazy stories about times gone by are nothing unusual when old classmates meet up to rehash their past.

Considering the characters of “American Reunion” have imbibed “special” beer, made love to baked goods and eaten dog feces, their recollections must be a little more unpredictable.

The Class of 1999 of East Great Falls High School has come a long way, and now they’re finally coming home for a belated reunion. Some are already parents, like Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs), others are married and longing for the good old days, like Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and still others, like Chris “Oz” Ostreicher (Chris Klein) have gone on to become huge successes.

With even long-lost wanderer Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) turning up for the fun, the foursome expects everything to be just like old times.

Unfortunately, that means also being around Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), who’s matured little since high school graduation. But, if there’s one thing they can always expect out of a weekend with the man who still refers to himself as “the Stifmeister,” it’s that it won’t be boring.

Becoming famous for more than a few embarrassing moments on film in the “American Pie” series, the prospect of humiliation isn’t even close to over for Biggs.

Poor Jim and wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) just can’t seem to reconnect in the boudoir now that they’ve got a toddler, and it takes little time for us to catch each of them in some indecent incidents.

Kevin's life isn’t nearly so exciting, locked into a tedious house-husband lifestyle and intoxicated by the appearance of high school sweetheart Vicky (Tara Reid). Old girlfriends tend to do the trick for Klein as well, with Oz now an over-promoted sportscaster and looking for a way out of celebreality by getting back together with the girl he took to prom, Heather (Mena Suvari).

Thomas is underused as soft-spoken Finch, but there never could have been any doubt that Stifler would get a healthy amount of attention. Scott’s crowning achievement as the rude, crude party dude who never quits is the same as he ever was even now that he’s fully reached adulthood.

That may or may not be a good thing, as he hits on teenage girls and his first go-to idea for revenge against a gang of high testosterone hardbodies is to cop a squat over their cooler. Some things never change, and in some ways, that’s not a bad thing, especially with Eugene Levy as Jim’s widower dad.

The bushy-eyebrowed comedian — the only person to appear in every “American Pie” movie, including the direct-to-DVD spin-offs — helps bring back the warmth and genuine humor that hasn’t been present since the first film, this time finding a possible romance with Stifler’s insatiable mother (Jennifer Coolidge).

Though it’s been promoted as a real event, the task of rounding up the cast members whose careers were launched by the original “American Pie” couldn’t have been that hard, since many of them could use the boost. The likes of Shannon Elizabeth, Natasha Lyonne, and Chris Owen pop up in small appearances, while John Cho — who’s since become a bigger personality than most of the stars — has his nameless role expanded.

Funny how playing “MILF Guy No. 2” can lead to bigger and better things.

High school movies come and go, and following the kids who were funny as teens rarely leads to anything good as they get older and the sequels become stale. With the “Pie” name being slapped on too many hackneyed add-ons to count, just getting the genuine article after almost a decade of flavorless imitations is a relief in itself.

Yes, it’s just as much of an extension of the small, simple story about high school seniors losing their virginity, but there’s something to be said about a group of guys who still make you care about them. It’s not a movie for new “Pie” lovers but quite specifically for the viewers who grew up with Jim, Stifler and the rest.

The ’90s-heavy soundtrack helps that along for those who are nostalgic, but no matter what anyone says, the Spice Girls are not classic rock.

What makes “American Reunion” a movie you’ll like — love is probably a strong word — is that the ensemble truly has the look of people who enjoy being around each other.

Most high school reunions may involve bitterness and envy, but there’s no reason why the dreaded gathering can’t just be a good time.

Grab a nametag and join in.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Carmike Chief Plaza 4 in Steamboat Springs.

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