When the U.S. made American Pie a hit 13 years ago, did we realize we were signing up for a decade-spanning commitment? It’s not like the characters in the by-turns vulgar and sweet original demanded we check in with them every couple of years to see how they were doing. In fact, once the central quartet of Thomas Ian Nicholas, Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, and Eddie Kaye Thomas succeeded in losing their virginity in the first film, their stories didn’t really have anywhere to go. And yet go they went, through two previous sequels (in 2001 and 2003). The franchise then carried on through a series of direct-to-DVD movies, keeping only Eugene Levy—who plays the father of Biggs’ character—as connective tissue. But now it’s apparently time to check back in with the original gang, including those like Klein, Mena Suvari, and Tara Reid, who exited the series for potentially greener cinematic pastures earlier in the decade. The occasion: the Class Of 1999’s 13th-anniversary reunion. (Why didn’t they have a 10-year anniversary? It’s glossed over in a line of dialogue.)
So what’s everyone up to? Pretty much variations on what they were up to in the other three American Pie movies. Now married to Alyson Hannigan’s former band-camp debauchee, Biggs has transitioned from the sexual humiliations of teendom to the sexual disappointment of married-with-kids adulthood. Klein has become a famous sportscaster who can’t fully live up to his own reputation and the lifestyle of his hard-partying girlfriend (30 Rock’s Katrina Bowden), Nicholas finds new ways to anger his ex (Reid), and Thomas continues to act worldlier than his small-town Michigan upbringing allows. Meanwhile, group outlier Seann William Scott behaves like a malevolent puppy, testing the limits of his friends’ patience and steering them toward the nudity- and feces-heavy antics fans of the films have come to expect.
And in spite of the new writing and directing team—Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg of the Harold And Kumar movies—American Reunion delivers exactly what’s expected, and at the come-what-may pace the earlier entries established. Filled with more characters and subplots than Middlemarch, American Reunion has a lot of business to attend to, and takes its time getting it done, working through a checklist of items from previous films in the process. Levy’s heart-to-heart talks with Biggs provide the comic highlights, just as they did before. The film alternates sloppily executed sex gags with sentiment, as did its predecessors. And it’s all just slightly more endearing and amusing than it has any right to be. There’s no real reason to revisit these characters, but the cast makes it pleasant enough. While Reid, Klein, and Suvari never relax into their old roles, everyone else is game enough to commit to the teen-sex-comedy equivalent of an oldies act getting back together to play the greatest hits for the state-fair crowd. Coming to theaters in 2046: American Retirement.