Sequels aren't a problem if you get the angles right, if you know what to do with the characters. That's something that 'American Pie: Reunion' immediately got right.
The writing and directing team of Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (who wrote all three 'Harold and Kumar' movies, directing the second) brought some much needed freshness to the franchise.
How do you bring freshness to a franchise? It's about making decisions. In terms of the original cast, they skilfully managed to include everybody by not actually including everybody. What I mean is that the characters either got a key storyline, or they were reduced to a simple cameo. A perfect example is Natasha Lyonne. In the original 'American Pie' she was pivotal, here she's a thirty second cameo. Same for Shannon Elizabeth as Nadia.
They got this wrong in the previous films. Characters lingered and it was pointless, like Kevin in the third movie, and Oz and Heather in the second film. Luckily, the ten year hiatus has done Oz and Heather some good. The rekindling of the relationship is one of the sweetest parts of the movie. Predictable? Perhaps. But when you hear Bic Runga's 'Sway', you're absolutely sold.
There's also a great performance from John Cho, who reprises his role as the MILF guy, to hilarious effect. Schlossberg and Hurwitz could have overcooked it, being that he's the 'Harold and Kumar' guy, but luckily it's mostly underplayed and quietly, subtly hilarious.
Like I've written about the previous sequels; the success of new additions rely heavily on strong ideas. At times, 'American Reunion' struggles to raise strong laughs. But then again, I watched the film in a room full of journalists who were all in their fifties. This movie isn't made for 50 year old guys who take a notepad and pen to the cinema. It's made for people like you and me who just long to connect. We want characters that ARE us. That's why I'm not swayed by some of the negative reviews of this film - because it's not a film you're meant to break down and analyse, you're just meant to enjoy it. It'll either resonate, or it won't. If it does, like it did with me, you'll have a blast.
If you're a fan of the previous films, then go see it. If anything, it's just good to see the old gang again. There are enough laugh out loud moments, mixed with the sincerity and heart that endeared the franchise to everyone in the first place.
There is something about the pairing of Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan that really works. They're such oddballs, and they're so like us! That's the problem with most movies. You look up at the likes of Megan Fox, or the Twilight dude, and you don't see yourself. Jim, despite all his perversions, has a giant beating heart; and you can't help but love him. Hannigan is wonderful at taking a very annoying character and somehow making her relatable, even lovable.
It's the 4th film in the franchise (8th if you include the straight to DVD releases). Should they have made it? Yeah! It's FUN! And it's great to see all the characters again. They handled this movie in the right way. It was steeped in nostalgia and in-jokes, yet at the same time, it had a freshness and a joyfulness which lifted it above many other films in the series. The most important thing, for me, is that I had a smile on my face throughout the thing. What more could you want?
American Pie: Reunion' is released in the UK on May 2nd 2012.