The week’s big film news is the YouTube premiere of David Lynch’s first public “movie” in six years, Crazy Clown Time. This seven-minute video brings the lyrics of a song off the director’s first solo album to lurid life. At a backyard party spinning of control, one guy “screamed so loud, he spit”; another sets his lavish Mohawk on fire; a ripe blond “ripped her shirt off completely” — all filmed in jittery hell-scape tableaux intercut with shots of the 66-year-old auteur wailing in the voice of piglet just before slaughter time. It’s a deranged take on youthful bravura stoked by alcohol and anarchy, and a way-more telling, artful vision than this week’s other entry in post-teen misbehavior, American Reunion.
In 1999, American Pie wormed its way into the low-movie Pantheon with its depiction of East Great Falls High School seniors in various degrees of teen heat. Managing to blend in a single scene those two national icons, masturbation and mom’s apple pie, the movie became a big hit, hatched one indelible character — the manic cocksman Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott) — and shepherded horny kids through puberty as National Lampoon’s Animal House and Porky’s had done for their parents. Two sequels, American Pie 2 and American Wedding, were nearly as popular, all topping the $100-million mark at the domestic box office, but the series quickly devolved into direct-to-video spinoffs.
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Now, in a meager Stimulus Act for its underremembered cast, American Reunion reconvenes the actors and many of the old jokes for a slapdash essay on the perils of hitting 30 — which, the movie suggests, is like falling out of bed and landing on barbed wire. Gone is the priapic innocence of high school, when one boy could write in his yearbook that he “hopes to have the sex life of Ricky Martin.” As they prepare for their 13th-year reunion, Jim (Jason Biggs) is mired in a sexless marriage with his teen sweetheart Michelle (Alyson Hannigan); the jock Oz (Chris Klein) is a minor celebrity still wincing from a loss to Gilbert Gottfried on a Dancing With the Stars-type show; Stifler is working as a temp for a ruthless boss; and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas)… well, their problem is that nobody cares what their problems are.
In one of Reunion’s vagrant lurches into truth-telling, Jim asks Stifler, “When are you gonna realize that things are never gonna be like they used to be?” Yet the recipe used by writer-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who did the Harold & Kumar movies, ordains that everything should be exactly the way it once worked. Jim, the kid who seduced the pie, is again caught in a compromising position in the kitchen. (Penis alert!) Guys and gals from the first film, now thicker and with incipient crow lines, pair up in more or less the same permutations as when they were young and shiny. The movie’s message is that the way to face impeding maturity is to embrace your inner teen idiot.
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Hurwitz and Schlossberg do run a few variations on the wages of sin, post-graduate division. Stifler finally hooks up with a girl he fondly recalls as “the mouth that got away”; when he agrees to be the donor, not the receiver, in a session of oral sex, he gets a tart lesson in growing up. Jim, always a figure of repressed sexual panic, has become the dream beau of Kara (the preternaturally luscious Ali Cobrin), a child he used to babysit for and who is just turning a hot 18. For other 30-year-old men, the availability of a gorgeous, drunk, naked, besotted teen who hungers for deflowering might be an enticement; for Jim, it’s a test of marital fidelity and not even mildly tempting. The film’s only inspired, unfraught coupling involves Jim’s dad and Stifler’s mom (Eugene Levy and Jennifer Coolidge, otherwise partnered in three of Christopher Guest’s improv comedies) — but to see that, you’ll have to stay for the closing credits.
The movie keeps bursting into comic situations whose implications it then tiptoes away from. The scene of Jim and the randy, inebriated Kara in a car summons the memory of the oral-sex chapter in John Irving’s The World According to Garp; that encounter ended in castration, this in mere embarrassment. Another segment has Kara’s creepy boyfriend swiping bikini tops from beach bunnies, with Stifler and his pals in angry pursuit. But it never occurs to our heroes that they should liberate the stolen bras and return them to their grateful owners. The guys are just revenging a slur on their collective manhood, which Stifler caps by taking a crap in the bad guy’s beer cooler. Ah, 30! As Houston Astros pitcher Larry Anderson sagely remarked, “You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever.”
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