American Reunion Review (Kirk Haviland)

American Reunion (2012)

Starring Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kay Thomas, John Cho, Natasha Lyonne, Dania Ramirez, Eugene Levy and Jennifer Coolidge.

Written by John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg based on characters created by Adam Herz

Directed by John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg

 

Back in 1999, a bunch of teens took the summer box office by storm with a raunchy little laugh fest called American Pie. The cast were all relative unknowns with a first-time director and first-time writer at the helm. What they managed to produce was not only an over-the-top, no holds barred, bombastic comedy that became a box office smash, but they also created memorable characters with heart and passion that have stood the test of time. After a solid sequel and a not so memorable third, Universal decided to keep the franchise going, without the original cast, with a slew of direct-to-video follow-ups (One very funny film, one okay film and two utter disasters) that ran the series into the ground (especially after the god awful Book of Love). So when the announcement went out that Universal was going to bring back the original gang for another theatrical outing I was excited. But could they really pull off a solid sequel after so much time. And unlike American Wedding could they get EVERYONE back?

American Reunion opens with now married parents Jim and Michelle Levenstein (Biggs and Hannigan) in a funny sequence that shows just how much of a rut having a child has put their love life into (featuring a cameo from Jim’s infamous white sock). We then catch up with Kevin (Nicholas) who has basically become a housewife as his wife makes sure to save shows like The Bachelor and Project Runway so they can watch them together. Kevin is desperate for some time with the guys and has arranged for Jim, Oz and himself to go to the reunion three days earlier to reconnect, minus Stiffler who they fear will ruin things. Next we catch up with Oz (Klein), who has become a minor celebrity due to his being a sportscaster for a local station and having competed in a “Dancing with the Stars” type reality show. He has a model for a girlfriend who is constantly trying to make sure they are keeping their standing in the public eye. Oz turns down a public appearance with Mario Lopez because he really wants to go to his reunion and see the boys. Next up is Stiffler (Scott), who we see barreling through an office building and quickly realize he has not changed or grown up one bit. Not surprisingly things with Stiffler are not all what they seem and he may need the guys more than anyone else. The boys all get to town and meet in front of the bar when low and behold the long lost and nowhere to be found Paul Finch (Thomas) shows up and the group is complete. As the boys swap stories and meet Selena (Ramirez) again, Michelle’s now smoking hot former band geek friend from high school, the Stiffmeister sulks into the bar and see all the guys having a great time. The guys quickly claim they invited him and he must not have got their messages and Stiffler is so happy to see the crew together again that he lets them believe he buys it and proceeds to get everyone smashed. From here on in the same old crazy antics are back and the boys are in for another wild weekend in East Great Falls.

All the old characters show up as Vicky and Heather (Reid and Suvari) confuse the issue when their appearances stir up old feelings in their exes Kevin and Oz. We also find out that Jim’s mom has passed three years earlier and Jim’s Dad (the always brilliant Levy) is still having a hard time with it. John Cho returns in a bigger role than he had in either of the first two films, yet still billed as Milf Guy #2. Natasha Lyonne is unfortunately relegated to a small cameo, but with the amount of characters already added this works fine. We also get similar cameos from other favorite characters from the first films I will not ruin here. There is a sub-plot revolving around a now teenage girl who Jim used to babysit as a child and how she is determined to have Jim help her “celebrate” her 18th birthday.  This leads to a very funny house invasion set piece, a feud, and of course more marital problems once Michelle inevitably finds out.

American Reunion is just the perfect mix of nostalgia, raunchiness and genuine laughs that you would hope it would be. Writer/Directors Hurwitz and Schlossberg bring the same sensibilities from their other creation Harold and Kumar (explaining the more extended use of Cho) to the American Pie gang and it works beautifully. There are real heartwarming scenes in here, especially with Jim and his Dad, that elevate this film and really make you appreciate getting to see these characters after a nine year absence. For fans of this series it’s really satisfying to see this reunion take place and feels right to be able to see how these characters have matured and grown up since we last saw them.

The ending of the film leaves a definite possibility for more in the series, and after they rebooted the Fast and Furious series so successfully I’m sure Universal had this in mind when the project started. As long as we can expect more films like this and less like “Wedding” and the other poor sequels, I will gladly line up to see what further antics Jim, Stiffler and boys get up to.

 

Til Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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Goon Review (Kirk Haviland)

Goon (2012)

Starring – Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Liev Schrieber and Alison Pill.

Written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg

Directed by Micheal Dowse

Editor’s note: Just a quick bit of information. Since the publication of this review, we have heard from Alliance and they confirmed that there was in fact no Q&A after the screening. Sorry for any confusion.

Hello Folks,

Sports movies are a tricky thing, but when someone gets it right they can become some of our most cherished classics. Movies like Slapshot, Rudy, Raging Bull, Major League, Field of Dreams, Hoosiers, and the recent Moneyball have all succeeded in crossing over from mere film to part cultural phenomenon. Phrases like “just a bit outside” and “putting on the foil coach” are immediately recognizable to sports and movie fans alike. Standing in a crowd of strangers and starting a slow chant of “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy” may not help convince people of your sanity, but I can almost guarantee over 50% of the people in that group will know what the chant means. This recognition is also what leads to the downfall of most sports film out there. They are either rehashes of the same premises or they focus too much on trying to do everything about the sport “right on film” that they lack in story and character. The reason the most successful of sports films become a success is because they don’t try to focus on the sport as a whole, rather a strong story within the context of the sport. This is why Goon works. It doesn’t try to explain hockey for what it is and why it is, it just wants to tell the story of a guy who loves to fight and stand up for his teammates.

Doug Glatt (Scott) is a simpleminded bouncer who just simply wants to belong to something. His parents and brother are successful in their careers and even his best friend Pat (Baruchel) has his own call in a T.V. show about hockey, “Hot Ice”. Doug’s life changes when he goes to a local game with Pat.  When a hockey player climbs into the stands after Doug, he knocks him unconscious. Doug is quickly given the moniker “the thug” and recruited by the local coach to play for the team. He is taught the fundamentals in the familiar “training montage” after he beats up over half his own team in one of the funnier moments of the film. It’s not long before he is moving up from the local team to a “national league just one step from the pros”, the films equivalent of the AHL, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He’s there to protect the team’s star, Xavier LaFlamme (Marc-Andre Grondin),  who is skittish about everything on the ice after getting knocked out  and concussed by the league’s veteran tough guy, Ross “the boss” Rhea (Schrieber). During the course of his time in Halifax he also finds love with self professed “slut and bad girlfriend” Eva (Pill). It all leads up to the inevitable showdown for the last playoff spot and the big fight everyone is waiting for.

It may sound too much like your typical sports themes, but writers Baruchel and Goldberg get creative within the conventions of a story like this and resolve the “issues” of the film in creative ways. Scott is clearly the focus of the film and he truly does bring a likeable charm to a role somewhat unlike anything else he has done. You find yourself drawn to cheer and root for Doug throughout the film. Alison Pill steals almost every scene she’s in and is absolutely stunning throughout. She is still one of my favorite parts of Scott Pilgrim (forget Ramona, I’d take Kim P, ……or Knives!) and at this point has me buying into whatever her next project is…blind. Schrieber as the grizzled veteran is an inspired choice and shines, especially during the “Heat” inspired diner scene between Doug and Ross.  Director Micheal Dowse does a solid job rustling all the big personalities into solid performances. We were also told during the film’s introduction that he had the creative ingenuity to configure a dolly rig on skates to get closer to the action.

We were lucky enough to have the Director and three of the main cast, Baruchel, Schrieber and Scott there to present the film. Alas, I was in the wrong theater from a Q&A standpoint as the other theater got that (I could be wrong but it was put forward that the other theater was mainly Industry/Media and the other theater was for contest winners like me, thus the lack of Q&A). This wasn’t too much of an upset as my friend, TO filmmaker Justin McConnell, and I both enjoyed the film regardless. Justin, along with making his own films, curates a short film program in Toronto that I will be discussing in a couple of weeks.

Cast Photo

Overall, Goon is just a good hockey movie, which is all the filmmakers wanted to do. It may not be the funniest or most heartfelt or even the best sports movie we see all year, but it’s earned a spot on my shelf when it hits Blu-Ray. A truly fun night out at the cinema.

Opens Friday Feb 24th in theaters across Canada and on VOD in the US.

Til Next Time

Kirk “Movie Junkie TO” Haviland

follow me on twitter @moviejunkieTO

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