By STEVE PERSALL
Times Movie Critic
No apple pies were harmed during the making of American Reunion, although fond memories take a beating.
What seemed like a decent idea — American Pie's cast sharing a fourth and final stroll through the gutter — is swamped by the reason why most of these actors haven't worked much between sequels. They simply aren't special, or even that good at what they're doing.
Take Jason Biggs, for example. Biggs plays nice guy Jim Levenstein, whose molestation of a pastry became the franchise's signature moment back in 1999. Sadly, it also remains Biggs' career moment; even Woody Allen couldn't coax anything more in Anything Else. Biggs has a pleasant stammer, and is fearless about looking foolish, nothing more.
So it goes for nearly everyone in the cast. When was the last time you raced to see the new Eddie Kay Thomas or Thomas Ian Nicholas release? Some pieces of the Pie almost didn't survive success (Chris Klein, Tara Reid, Natasha Lyonne), another got lucky twice in television ensembles (Alyson Hannigan) and Seann William Scott has done little beyond playing variations on Stifler.
These actors don't own their American Pie roles; the one-note roles own them.
Everyone is older but not wiser about sex in American Reunion despite marriage or arm-candy relationships. Jim and Michelle (Hannigan) have a baby and a stale sex life, leading to a double shot of embarrassment at being caught having sex alone. Oz (Klein) is a brash sports reporter in L.A. with a wild supermodel girlfriend but he can't keep up. Kevin (Nicholas) enjoys his dull marriage but he'll be tempted at the 13th high school reunion the plot hinges upon.
Finch (Thomas) is still single, snooty, and nostalgic about his teenage fling with Stifler's mom (Jennifer Coolidge, who isn't in this movie enough). For his part, Stifler is still a gusher of gross behavior, and a one-man hostile work environment at his temp job. Stifler's development isn't only arrested but deported to another planet where such behavior wouldn't leave him behind bars.
Writers-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg trade the twisted ingenuity of Harold & Kumar flicks for a sitcom template of smutty set-ups and limp deliveries. Even Neil Patrick Harris' cameo doesn't sparkle. We get jokes about celebrity dancing TV shows, Jim's privates being exposed again, Stifler and pubic hair, and bondage gear worn in public. Someone please shake my sides so it appears that I'm laughing.
The movie's only constant pleasure — heck, the whole franchise's — is Eugene Levy as Jim's dad, widowed and wondering if it's time to date again. The father-and-son dynamic of birds and bees lessons gets cleverly reversed, and Levy's mastery of befuddlement is matched only by his eyebrows. Leave it to the old man to show these kids how it's done.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.