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American Wedding Print E-mail
Friday, 01 August 2003
ImageEvery two years lately, there's another "American Pie" movie. Instead of calling the third outing "American Pie 3," someone at Universal shows a touch of imagination in calling it "American Wedding." But it's much the same as before: crude, vulgar humor and the now-traditional element of genuine sweetness, family values and even true love.

Most of the original cast returns: Jason Biggs as perpetually horny Jim Levinstein, the guy who had an intimate relation with a dessert, Eddie Kaye Thomas as cool, intelligent Paul Finch, Thomas Ian Nicholas as, well, another guy, Kevin Myers, and Seann William Scott as vulgar, crude Steve Stifler, now (appropriately) a high school football coach. Only Chris Klein as Oz is missing -- so thoroughly missing that no obvious reference is made to the character.

Original writer Adam Herz also returns; the director this time is a relative newcomer, Jesse Dylan (brother of Jakob, son of Bob). But despite the absence of Oz and a couple of other recurring characters, "American Wedding" should satisfy "American Pie" fans. If you liked the first two, you're likely to enjoy this one as well. If you didn't like them, you won't even see this one. (So why are you reading this review?) If you haven't seen them, Universal is giving you an opportunity with the just-released special DVD sets that include the movies and documentaries about them.

All our pals have now graduated from college, and in the opening scene, Jim is on a date at a plush restaurant with Michelle, the horny redhead from band camp. He wants to propose to her, but of course, things don't go that smoothly. First, he forgot the ring; secondly, his good-hearted if consciously oblivious father (Eugene Levy, as before) cell-phones to say he's on the way with the ring. Thirdly, Michelle (unaccountably) concludes what he really wants is immediate oral sex, so in the middle of this busy, expensive restaurant, she crawls under the table to take care of this. It's funny, but even for randy Michelle, this goes way over the line in terms of believability. However, it does open a promising new venue for comedy: funny erections.
But finally, Jim does give her the ring when she says yes, and the story (simple as it is) gets under way. But that's gilding the lily a bit -- as before, there's no real story, just a lot of incidents on the way to the big wedding. It's hardly giving anything away to reveal that the movie does indeed end with Jim and Michelle tying the knot.

Jim, Kevin and Finch certainly don't want The Stifler (as he likes to call himself) showing up for even the pre-wedding dinner, much less the wedding itself. But refusing to believe he isn't welcome, Stifler barges into the dinner, being held at the home of Jim's parents. (Which seems to be where Jim himself still lives; at least, we're not shown any other residence for him.) This does end up with a bizarre knot including Stifler, Jim, a copulating dog and one intent on licking Stifler's crotch.

The dogs belong to Harold (Fred Willard) and Mary Flaherty (Deborah Rush), Michelle's parents, on whom Jim is desperate to make a good impression. Events conspire to drive things in a different direction.

Stifler is eager to help host Jim's bachelor party -- he'll "hang out with his wang out, rock out with his cock out," he ringingly declares. And he wants to help Jim and the others go to Chicago to order Michelle's ideal wedding dress. This leads to them winding up in -- to Stifler's initial horror -- a gay bar. A big tough gay guy, Bear (Eric Allan Kramer, who's very good), sneers at the possibility of any gay guy being attracted to Stifler. This enrages Stifler's huge ego -- "If I were gay you'd want me!" -- and he and Bear do a pretty damned good dance-off.

Cadence (January Jones), Michelle's virginal sister, also shows up, and Stifler instantly forms a deep desire to deflower her. But she seems to be more interested in the well-read, polite Finch, so Stifler tries to transform himself into that kind of guy. He arrives at a restaurant with a cashmere sweater casually knotted around his neck, a polo shirt with an alligator on it, a new vocabulary (which doesn't include his favorite F-word) and a big grin. At the same time, Finch finds that acting like the real Stifler, to the point of calling himself the Finchmeister, seems to be making headway with Cadence. (Has there ever really been anyone named "Cadence"?)

Something Jim says leads Kevin, Finch and Stifler to think he'll be home alone, so with Bear's help, they bring over a couple of sexy girls (Amanda Swisten and Nikki Schieler Ziering). Just as Kevin has been tied to a chair and Finch has smeared himself with chocolate, Jim arrives with Harold and Mary for a quiet getting-to-know-you dinner. Chaos ensues.

Finally everyone heads for the lavish lakeside hotel where the wedding is to take place. Of course, there are no problems, including a surprisingly serious one (Jim's grandmother objects to his marrying a Gentile) that's dealt with in a typically crude but problem-solving fashion. And just when you're starting to think that this movie doesn't have a shit joke, it does. It takes too long to set up, but ends with an awesomely -- and hilariously -- crude act on the part of desperate Stifler.

There's always been something peculiarly warm and fuzzy about the "American Pie" movies -- gross-out jokes in the midst of true friendship and love. The genius of the films, if that's not too strong a word, is that both aspects work well, and even feed off one another in a positive way. Michelle is a horny little nympho, for example, but she's also warm and sweet, and genuinely loves Jim. Stifler actually starts to reform -- as Michelle says, "Stifler just gave a rose to a girl and meant it; this is huge -- like watching monkeys use tools for the first time." The movie winds up as much the story of Stifler's wising up as it does the tale of Jim and Michelle's wedding. And it's the better for it. The crude and vulgar Stifler tends to wear out his welcome pretty fast; he wasn't so central in the first two "Pie" movies; it was a wise decision to feature a kinder, gentler Stifler in this one. (But Seann William Scott needs to have a firm talk with his agent; he's very good at playing this gross oafs, but that's just about ALL he plays.)

Jesse Dylan's only other film as director was the badly-received "How High," about a couple of guys who get stoned smoking the ashes of a dead friend. "American Wedding" could only be a step up. Dylan's direction is simple and obvious, with a lot of closeups and only fair timing. The movie is likely to do well -- the first two "Pie"s did -- but Dylan would do well to think before accepting, say, "American Family." He needs to show he can do something else.

So does Adam Herz, the writer. So far his only screen credits have been this "Pie" series; he actually is quite inventive with the gross-out stuff, and surprisingly effective with the warm and fuzzy stuff, too. And there must be room for yet another film in the series -- with Jim and Michelle struggling to deal with the problems of raising a baby (no doubt there will be lots of diaper jokes), while the other three guys do need to be paired off with a satisfactory woman. (Incidentally, Finch's favorite female shows up at the end.)

Again, if you liked the first two, sure, see this one. If you didn't, there are lots of other movies out there.

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