Serving a heaping slice of nostalgia.

Since it”s release in 1999 it’s hard to fathom that the now infamous boy-on-pie original would launch a $1 billion franchise, 4 straight-to-DVD knockoffs and a countless number of imitators, but that is precisely what American Pie did.  So it stands to reason that Universal would go back to the well for one last hurrah.  What they’ve baked (pie joke) is American Reunion: a surprisingly charming and funny jaunt to the past.

Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) and the entire gang are back in Great Falls for the first time since 2001’s American Pie 2.  It’s their 10-year high school reunion and they’ve all grown up.  Jim is married to Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) and lives a cozy suburban life with their 2-year old Evan.

PHtVXEKigZotxA_1_m-376x600Oz (Chris Klein) is a fringe L.A. celebrity famous for a short stint on a Dancing with the Stars imitator.  Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is married and working from home.  He spends his evenings catching up on Gossip Girl with his wife.  Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is a world traveler and of course Stifler (Sean William Scott) is a temp at Besides, horoscope for scorpio is in analogy with the 8th House which represents surgical operations. a law firm – after his intro it”s a mystery how he”s employed at all.

It’s refreshing to catch up with these characters again and Directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg give each plenty of time to reacquaint themselves.  Of course when the inevitable reunion weekend commences the real fun begins.  For any veteran of this franchise this exercise will feel very familiar.  Jim’s consistent sexual humiliation is on full display and props to Jason Biggs for going the extra full frontal mile just to get a laugh.  Stifler, as usual, steals many of his scenes including an outrageous prank on a gaggle of high school seniors.  The stand-out here is Oz (Chris Klein.)  Always a weak link in the past Klein plays the overly-sentimental womanizer for some great laughs.

What grounds Reunion in reality is the relationship of these guys.  After 4-movies worth of character building they do seem like real friends.   It’s a testament to the actors that after this stretch it doesn’t feel desperate.  As Jim’s Dad (a hysterical Eugene Levy) says, “This is all very natural.”

Despite the fun, the film’s issues are apparent.  Some of the raunchy escapades feel shoe-horned in like the screenwriters were afraid we’d forget what movie this is.  Also, as is the case in this franchise, some of the characters just aren’t that interesting.  Far too much screen time is given to past flames Vicky (a horrendous Tara Reid) and Kevin.  From Pie #1 they were always boring.  It’s understandable that the screenwriters would want to explore these relationships but most of them are contrived and forgettable.

The thing to keep in mind is Reunion is nostalgia incarnate.  The film works mostly on the strength of the original.  The same character devices are used, the storyline is borderline identical, even the locations are familiar.  A first time viewer may completely miss the in-jokes that lace the movie from start to finish (Stifler’s mom, the MILF twins, band camp.)  But for those who grew up with this cast it is good to catch up with old friends.

…No pies were harmed in the making of this movie.

American Reunion opens today in theaters everywhere.