By Michael Phillips 2014-07-04

By Michael Phillips

Tribune Newspapers Critic

2 stars

Sweeping aside the film's weirdest unasked question -- who goes to their 13th high school reunion? -- the characters created by Adam Herz for the 1999 hit "American Pie" return for a rather tired sequel called "American Reunion," in which poor, desperate Jim Levenstein's genitals once again get their ears boxed (metaphorically speaking), and Stifler's way with nubile 17-year-olds doesn't seem quite as obnoxiously sprightly as it once did, given that Stifler is now supposed to be in his early 30s and the actor, Seann William Scott, is 35.

The movie acknowledges this queasy disconnect, though acknowledging it doesn't make it much funnier. Everyone in the ensemble keeps pushing the woebegone nostalgia angle, pining for lost youth, eager to reactivate now-dormant sex lives. Every other line, it seems, refers to "back in the day" or "wasn't this more fun when we were younger?" or how "old" they're feeling. You'd think this was a remake of "Cocoon."

"American Pie," and the better parts of the second one, proved that the right combination of hard-R-rated raunch and occasional sincerity was golden. Those films were followed by "American Wedding" and four direct-to-DVD spinoffs.

The through-line linking all eight, including "American Reunion," has been Eugene Levy as Noah Levenstein, now a widower, still dispensing awkward advice to his son, played by Jason Biggs.

The plot you know, even if you don't. The East Great Falls, Mich., reunion weekend brings together Jim, Stifler, haute poseur Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas, adroitly treading the line between "deadpan" and "bored"), sportscaster Oz (Chris Klein) and the other guy, Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), now bearded and married. Jim and his band-camp-derived wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) have fallen into a nonsexual rut since the birth of their son. The opening scene in the sequel from writers-directors and "Harold & Kumar" alums Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg presents dueling-masturbation scenarios under the same exhausted-spouse roof.

Now and then the movie rouses itself to deliver. If you go to "American Reunion" -- and many will, if they harbor fond memories of the first one, and if they can find a sitter -- you should stay through the end credits. Levy and Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler's mom) are on a date at a movie theater, and while the ensuing joke is as old as time, the way Levy finesses it you wonder if the "American Pie" franchise would've gotten half as far as it has without him.

For the record, the movie's cinematography and editing are pure hack work, drab and jumpy and jammed with full-face close-ups. Not good for comedy. Next stop: "American Time-Share."

MPAA rating: R (for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, language, brief drug use and teen drinking).

Running time: 1:53.

Cast: Jason Biggs (Jim); Seann William Scott (Stifler); Alyson Hannigan (Michelle); Chris Klein (Oz); Tara Reid (Vicky); Thomas Ian Nicholas (Kevin).

Credits: Directed by Hayden Schlossberg and Jon Hurwitz; written by Schlossberg, Hurwitz and Adam Hertz, produced by Chris Moore, Chris Weitz, Craig Perry and Warren Zide. A Relativity Universal Pictures release.

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