American Wedding Reviewby Michael Dequina (mrbrown AT iname DOT com)
August 20th, 2003
_American_Wedding_ (R) *** (out of ****)
Who knew that when the original _American_Pie_ came out in the summer of '99 that the amiably raunchy teen sex comedy would evolve into--as the posters for _American_Wedding_ declare--a "saga"? This third _Pie_ film is being billed as the "climax" of the series, and, quite frankly, now is definitely the right and natural time for these libidinous lads and lasses to toss out the baked goods once and for all. That's not saying, however, that they don't deliver on offering one last helping of good, dirty--and surprisingly sweet--fun.
It's interesting to trace the progression of the _Pie_ series, as it mirrors the evolution of a long-running television series. It began as an ensemble high school piece, with each of its characters having their own individual storyline (that is, with the exception of Natasha Lyonne's token sounding board character); the second "season," if you will, followed the entire gang a year into college, with some characters being backburnered while scene-stealing secondary characters (namely, Seann William Scott's Steve Stifler) were pushed to the forefront. Now, for its final run, a number of no-longer-useful characters have been written out, leaving a streamlined core cast of fan favorites, all now fresh out of university: humiliation magnet Jim (Jason Biggs); the love of his life, kinky ex-band camp geek Michelle (Alyson Hannigan, the only major female holdover); the boorish, loudmouthed Stifler; and his mother's former lover, the cerebral Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), his mother's ex-lover. On second thought, scratch off that "fan favorite" qualifier, for the ever-nondescript space occupier that is Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) also returns.
But it's not like much attention is paid to Kevin, anyway, as the emphasis is squarely on Stifler. Even though the impending nuptials of series supercouple Jim and Michelle lends "Wedding" its title, it is the bit player in the original "Pie" that dominates this installment. Whether engaging in a disco danceoff in a gay bar, acting like a square in an attempt to bed Michelle's virginal younger sister Cadence (January Jones), eating an unusually unappetizing "chocolate truffle," or just cursing up a storm, Scott shows why, out of all the _Pie_ cast members, he's gone on to have the biggest career. Subtlety may not be his strong suit, but no matter how repellent Stifler's behavior gets, Scott remains oddly magnetic; it's almost disappointing that Adam Herz's script has Stifler undergoing a slight mellowing arc.
"Slight" is the key word there, for the returning characters are still very much the people we've come to know and love. While the sex, gross-out gags and various indignities endured by the hapless Jim fuel the laughs for this film and the entire franchise, the key to the series' longevity is the audience's genuine investment in Herz's familiar characters. After all he's gone through, we want Jim to finally find happiness, and we want things to turn out well for everyone--even Stifler, with his selfish, sociopathic tendencies intact; even Kevin, however bland he may have been in the entire trilogy.
Of course, even though the word "wedding" is in the title, this is still a piece of the _Pie_, and comedy is the order of the day. What one expects is all here: raunchy gags, such as a would-be bachelor party gone hilariously awry; and gross-out bits, including the token embarrassments involving Jim's nether regions. But Herz and director Jesse Dylan don't completely lean on off-color stunts, for some of the best laughs, such as archenemies Finch and Stifler trading their respective personae to win over Cadence and Jim's father's (Eugene Levy) perpetual understanding of his son's extreme mishaps, are rooted in character and the actors' spirited performances. That extra dimension of (dare I say) humanity that Herz and his regular cast give the outrageous antics is why the entire _Pie_ "saga" will be missed and hold a dear place in moviegoers' hearts--that is, unless, someone gets the not-so-bright idea to make a thoroughly needless _American_Honeymoon_ installment. Two words of warning to anyone who even entertains the thought: _Just_Married_. 'Nuff said. (But, then again, that flick *did* do fairly decent business--arrgh!)
©2003 Michael Dequina
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