American Reunion - Thomas Ian Nicholas, Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Chris Klein and Eddie Kaye Thomas
Older but no wiser, Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs), Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), Chris "Oz" Ostreicher (Chris Klein) and Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) are back for another slice © 2012 Universal Studios

Including four direct-to-DVD spinoffs, this is the eighth helping of American Pie since that movie gave new meaning to the term “enjoying dessert” 13 years ago. All of the main characters from the original theater-released trilogy are back, and even most of the minor ones make brief appearances.

Although that means American Reunion has a comfort-food familiarity, a lot has changed since everyone partied like it was 1999. The sexual desperation of horny high-schoolers has degenerated into various forms of adult dissatisfaction now that the alumni are in their thirties. Replacing youthfully fumbling eagerness with adult regret, nostalgia and melancholy gives their hook-ups and screw-ups an almost bittersweet flavor.

There’s a big difference in tone between curious teenage virgin Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) getting inappropriately intimate with an apple pie, and married father Jim Levenstein sneaking personal time with internet porn while wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) is out of the room. The fact that equally unsatisfied Michelle simultaneously is getting in touch with herself using a handheld showerhead is likewise more sad than slapstick.

American Reunion - Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan
Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) and wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are new parents with a problem © 2012 Universal Studios

Their former classmates are experiencing similar problems. Chris “Oz” Ostreicher (Chris Klein), now a sportscaster with a model-hot girlfriend (Katrina Bowden), pines for hometown heart-throb Heather (Mena Suvari). Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is a married architect who fantasizes about his prom-night conquest Vicky (Tara Reid). Forever immature Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), who still lives with his mother, works as a lowly temp at an office run by an abusive tyrant. And Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has stories of globe-spanning adventures, but apparently hasn’t been romantically moved by anyone since his night with Stifler’s mom.

Directors/writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg faced the same difficult task of “growing up” a teen comedy last year, when they scripted their third Harold & Kumar installment. In both franchises’ latest updates, the characters tend to come across as slightly pathetic.

There’s also a new level of age-related skeeviness. A subplot about just-turned-18 Kara (Ali Cobrin), a neighbor Jim used to babysit who has matured into a centerfold-sexy seductress, is a pervy middle-age wish-fantasy. “I want you to be my first,” Kara drunkenly coos, tossing off her dress and descending on Jim’s crotch while he’s driving her home. (Interestingly, the only nudity in the film involves the beautifully busty Kara and, in a different scene that echoes The Hangover, the awkwardly bottomless Jim.)

As always, Scott steals the show as the ever-smiling Stifler, the only member of the gang who still delights in delinquency. The way he gets payback on some punk teenagers at the beach is disgusting, destructive and charmingly stupid. Taking a loud dump in their water cooler may not be the height of refined wit, but it’s good for a cheap laugh.

Longtime series fans will appreciate references to Jim’s embarrassing teenage internet video, Michelle’s flute and her revelation about yet another shocking thing she did at band camp. Eugene Levy is back as Jim’s frequently bewildered but understanding dad, who discovers the opposites-attract charm of Stifler’s notorious mom (Jennifer Coolidge).

Despite a “’til next time” closing toast, American Reunion has a “we’ve become our parents” finality that might make this a good stopping point. The world probably doesn’t need an American Divorce, American Retirement or American Funeral.

[Rating: 2.5 stars]

American Reunion gets its theatrical release April 6, 2012. Australia release April 5, 2012 and UK release May 2, 2012.

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James Dawson

Jim is Film Review Online's Los Angeles based reviewer.