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American Reunion /

Not Rated

Starring: Dwier Brown, Andres Faucher, Marlene Forte, Corey Glover

Directed by: Mark Poggi, Leif Tilden

Produced by: Eric M. Klein, Joe Anderson, Kimberly Shane O'Hara, Maurizio Ameri
Written by:
Kimberly Shane O'Hara


     There are a select number of films that I have trouble granting lukewarm reviews. American Reunion falls into this grouping. Its brilliance is clear, with each corner of it abundant in expertise. However, the persistently annoying, and always distracting, flaws it is disrupted by hold this micro-budget motion picture back from being a great film. When one of American Reunion’s faults detracts from an otherwise glowing scene, it is a painful experience to endure. Perhaps this type of flaw is harder to watch nag than that of a project which was dead-on-arrival in the first place. American Reunion exhibits much distinguished promise, but only half of it is acted upon.

     The story chronicles the events leading up to a twentieth high school reunion, in which a group of friends are reunited. The paths they have taken throughout their lives are broadly different from one another, but their personalities seem to still be the same with all considered, despite some noticeable changes. The idea seems to be a basic retread of The Big Chill, when each individual part of it is examined. But it is not the subject matter that bears any effect on American Reunion’s story, good or bad. Instead, it is the personalities which embody the story that make it so wonderful. Each character in the movie is significant in their own way, adding their own little touch to the final product.

     Some roles, though, turn out to be better than others. The performances in the picture range from being great to terrible. The cast varies in experience, though no actor in it has garnered a groundbreaking amount of success. I particularly like Dwier Brown as Patrick, a man who has been asked to leave the army because of his homosexuality, much to his father’s dismay. Corey Glover is also excellent as Ty, a musician who left his son in favor of making a career for himself in the music industry years back. He will be meeting the boy, who is now a teenager, for the first time ever.

     On the other side of the spectrum, Jennifer Rubin turns in a terrible performance as Jeanie, the high school nerd turned hottie. There are so many ways she could’ve brought a desperately needed wit to the character, playing with clichés and confounding a true, insightful presence. Instead, her work seems like some kind of sympathy ballot, begging us to like the brain-dead feelings she wants us to experience when watching and listening to Jeanie. In every scene that she’s in, the moments feel forced, totally bringing viewers out of the movie, and making them feel as if they’re watching a middle-school live drama production unfold. Andres Faucher isn’t very good, either. As J.C., the cocaine-snorting younger brother of one of the reuniting group’s deceased friend, Brian, he blankly paints us a by-the-numbers portrait of his character’s personality. When compared to Rubin, though, his efforts actually seem alright.

     The screenplay, written by Kimberly Shane O’Hara, contains some fabulous dialogue. The writing offers some surprisingly real takes on how people react to change; it beautifully explores such a concept in vivid detail. Even though I compare some aspects of the film’s execution to a junior high school potboiler, the written lines flow in such a way that they would work extremely well in a live production. If adapted correctly, American Reunion could make a great play.

     Despite the low-budget, independent status of the flick, some of the cinematography is gorgeous. I was enthralled at how well some of the shots blended with the ingenious soundtrack, bringing a melodic, artful nature about the picture. There are some fabulous, eye-pleasing views of various things, in motion, always providing something interesting to watch when the material fails to hook us. The selective use in color is also quite beautiful; it often enriches and enlightens the senses.

     I suppose I have to take American Reunion for what it is—an amusing, but rarely powerful diversion. It is scheduled for release in a few select cities this June, and is now, to my understanding, currently playing in Minneapolis. If it does come to your town, I would certainly recommend seeing it over a conventional, blunt Hollywood creation. However, the final product does not represent anything you should go out of your way to see. This is, in itself, disappointing, even though the film, overall, is somewhat worthwhile.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (5.19.2004)

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