American Reunion (2012): Co-Directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg

In the new comedy, American Reunion, co-written and co-directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, all the characters of “American Pie” of a decade ago return for one grand high-school reunion.

Sounds like a commercial high-concept comedy? It sure is. But it’s not a bad one as far as comedies are concerned. Though “American Reunion” lacks the savvy and political knowingness of such classic reunion films as John Sayles’ “Return of the Seven Secaucus,” and the sleek and poignant Lawrence Kasdan’s “The Big Chill,” it offers enough rewards to merit a visit to your local plex.

The original characters were conceived by Adam Herz, who also created “American Wedding.” Herz obviously, believes that his concepts are uniquely American.

I have always been partial to the “American Pie” movies, perhaps because they represented such a different adolescent from the one that I and my friends had.

The “American Pie” movies have always been more significant as a sociological than as artistic or cinematic phenomenon. Moreover, the characters and the actors who played them were always more charming and appealing than the nominal plot, such as it was (basically a skeleton that linked the episodes).

Since the last decade has been particularly important in terms of new political administrations, shifting ideologies, new technologies, new social media, and so on, the notion of re-encountering a clique of young men (and women) in their late 20s is quite intriguing. Not to forget: “American Pie” was made during the end of the Clinton regime, and in the intervening years, over a franchise of three entries, we had a Republican at the White House for two terms, to be replaced in 2008 by the Democrats and Obama.

Perhaps more importantly, the first “American Pie” came out one year after the Farrellys’ masterpiece, “There’s Something About Mary,” a charming love story that was laced with bathroom humor and bodily functions, dysfunctions, and malfunctions. “American Pie,” and/or its two official sequels, was never on the level of “Something About Mary,” but the gross humor and crude dialogue were highly influenced by that picture.

Set over one long weekend, “American Reunion” is the fourth (and probably not the last) installment of the series, which got worse and worse as it went along.  So consider “American Reunion” an effort to reboot a soggy and declining franchise.

In the new chapter, the characters from East Great Falls High need to discover for themselves who and what has changed (or not), and to what extent, and also to reassess the impact of historical time and geographical distance on their personal identities, social bonds and friendships, and relationships with their parents.  Thus, the mode of interaction and subject of conversation between Jim and his dad are now drastically different.

The lifelong friends have come home as “adults,” to reminisce about the hormonal teens they once were.  In the summer of 1999, we met four boys from small-town Michigan, who seem to have one goal in mind—getting laid, or, to put it in a more psychological and clinical way, to lose their virginity as quickly as possible so that they can rush and report about this climactic event to their friends. (Talking about sex is far more important than having sex).

Also since then, Jim (Jason Biggs) married Michelle (Alysoan Hannigan), while Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Vicky (Tara Reid) separated..  Meanwhile, Oz (Chris Klein) and Heather (Mena Suvari) grew apart, and Finch (Eddie Kay Thomas) still lusts after the mother (Jennifer Coolidge) of Stifler (Seann William Scott), who seems to have been stuck—to look and behave as he always did.

“American Reunion” benefits from the size of its ensemble, which is considerably large, in the sense that if you can’t get involved in the story of one set of characters, there is always another one in the background.

Completing the core group are Eugene Levy as Jim’s Dad, Natasha Lyonne as the sexually-wise Jessica, John Cho and Justin Isfeld as the world’s biggest MILF enthusiasts, Chris Owen as the Shermanator, and Shannon Elizabeth as Jim’s tryst, Nadia.

And there are at least half a dozen new faces. Joining the ensemble for the first time are Dania Ramirez as Selena, the ugly duckling turned swan from East Great Falls. Katrina Bowden as Mia, Oz’s model girlfriend, Chad Ochocinco as himself, playing Oz’s co-host, Jay Harrington as Dr. Ron, Heather’s pompous cardiologist boyfriend, Ali Corbin as Kara, Jim’s desirable next-door neighbor and Chuck Hittingr as AJ, Kara’s stupid beau.

Under the helm of better directors, the same material would have been shapelier, funnier, and more relevant. But the directors, Hurwitz and Schlossberg, whose claim to fame is “Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay,” takes the easy way out and slavishly follow the episodic screenplay.

“American Reunion” is not a particularly poignant, or self-reflexive comedy. However, while watching the movie, you will find yourself wondering what has happened over the past decade to the original actors on and off screen: What roles have they played? Did they develop as thespians? Would we always associate them with the “American Pie” movies?