Friday, April 6, 2012

American Reunion - 3 stars

This is the 4th American Pie movie (not counting the direct to DVD sequels with none of the origianl cast except Eugene Levy). It's the 13th reunion for the class of 1999. Not sure why it has to be the 13th reunion, except that they want the movie to take place in 2012. There is some line about missing the 10 year reunion, so this is making up for it.

Anyway, let's see what all the characters are up to.

Jim and Michelle are still married. They have a young son, and their marriage is having trouble. Jim's mom died a few years earlier, and his dad is still in mourning.

Finch has been off globe trotting on various adventures.

Kevin is married (not to Vicky) and seems happy being a house husband.

Oz has a girlfriend (not Heather) and works as a sportscaster on an ESPN show (or something similar). He also recently competed on Dancing With the Stars-type show.

Stiffler is working as a temp at an investment firm. He is the same old Stiffler, and no mention is made of Cadence, the girl he ended up with at the end of American Wedding.

I like seeing these characters again. After 4 movies, I'm very familiar with all of them and it's just nice to see their further adventures, which basically involve the 4 friends hanging out and Stiffler screwing everything up. Not that they each can't get into trouble on their own.

There are some very funny bits in the movie. After a night of drinking, Jim wakes up half naked in the kitchen. When Michelle and another girl walk in, he tries to cover himself with a see-through pan lid. When the hot 18-year old next door gets drunk and passes out in his car, Jim tries to sneak her into her bed while his friends distract her parents. When a group of teenagers soak our characters with jetskis, Stiffler gets them back in a way that's way over the top.

Just about everything Stiffler does in this movie is funny. Seann William Scott has been funny in other movies besides the American Pie series, but this is his best character. And since the character means well, there is a sweetness about him. He is vulgar and vile, but he really just wants the other guys to like him. Almost nothing he does is out of any malice, he just doesn't know any better.

I will admit that there are too many characters. One reason I liked American Wedding so much was that Oz and Michelle were not in it. They were the two least interesting characters in the first 2 movies. Also, Kevin is a rather disposable character, and they really didn't need to bring Tara Reid back. Towards the end we see a bunch of other minor characters make brief appearances, like Nadia and the Sherminator. I guess it's nice to see them again, but the movie wouldn't have suffered without them.

There are more things I could pick apart in this movie, like how dumb some characters have to be to not notice what's going on around them, or some of the obvious setups for jokes. At times it felt like the screenwriters had a checklist of lines and actions that they had to get in the movie (make sure Stiffler's mom and Finch gets brought up, put Jim and Michelle in a band room with flutes, get in a "One time at band camp" reference) but I can forgive those when the movie is as funny as this one is.

To be honest, I wouldn't mind if they made another one in a few years. I'm not sure what the next one would be about. Maybe drop the new titles and just call it American Pie 5.

Thin Ice - 3 stars

Greg Kinnear stars as Mickey, a down on his luck insurance salesman. He is well liked enough in the industry to speak at a conference at a nice warm resort, but back home in snow-bound Wisconsin things are getting worse for him. His wife has kicked him out of the house and he is behind in his bills.

One day while selling an insurance policy to a crazy old man named Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin), he discovers that the old man owns a rare violin worth a lot of money. Gorvy has no idea the violin is worth anything, so Mickey offers to buy it for $10. Before he can collect the violin, Gorvey finds out about its value. Now Gorvy doesn't want to sell it, and Mickey is getting more desperate, he decides to break into the house and swap it with a cheap violin. He is discovered by Randy (Billy Crudup) who installed a home security system for Gorvy.

Mickey convinces Randy not to rat him out, and then a neighbor discover the two of them breaking in. The neighbor is killed, and things spiral out of control from there.

This movie is kind of like Fargo or A Simple Plan - Mickey is not a criminal, but desperate and sees a way to make some quick money. He thinks no one will be hurt, but as the movie progresses things get worse and worse for him. It is especially similar to Fargo in the way Mickey is kind of a weasel like Jerry Lundegaard, and it is set in the winter in the same region.

The movie is nowhere near as good as Fargo, but its still a nice movie in its own right. Kinnear is perfect as the fast talking salesman who is always trying to get away with something. Arkin is great is the slightly crazy old man. He doesn't understand the concept of liability insurance, and he calls the insurance guy every time the TV needs to be fixed.

Billy Crudup is also really good as the twitchy ex-con who isn't going back to jail. This is probably the best thing I have seen Crudup do. He is this manic energy that is fun to watch, and his scenes with Kinnear are a lot of fun.

My only complaint with this movie is the ending. There is a twist to it that changes the entire movie and it doesn't really fit. I shouldn't complain too much, because it was unexpected and it was better than ending with a simple shootout or something. But the end just felt wrong.

But that aside, I really enjoyed Thin Ice while I was watching it.