American Wedding (United States, 2003)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

The summer of bad sequels finally has an entry that can boast being noticeably better than its immediate predecessor: American Wedding. The third entry into the American Pie series, this movie is a vast improvement over the tired and uninspired American Pie 2, although it fails to make it to the lofty perch occupied by the first film. The recipe, which probably doesn't need additional refining, brings back some of the sweetness of the original American Pie, and combines it with the expected ingredients of excessive raunchiness and vulgarity. Top it off with one of the most gut-churningly disgusting moments in any recent comedy, and you have American Wedding.

Comedy is subjective. In order to even begin to appreciate what director Jesse Dylan and writer Adam Herz (who penned all three American Pie scripts) have fashioned here, you have to possess a high tolerance for the sophomoric, no-holds-barred antics of a bunch of newly graduated (from college) reprobates. If you couldn't tolerate the first American Pie, have difficulty with the Farrelly Brothers canon, and would have preferred not to have taken a Road Trip, then this movie isn't for you. But if you like films that try to make Animal House look like nursery school material, plunk down your hard-earned $10 and have a good time.

Parts of American Wedding are hilarious. Laugh-your-butt-off hilarious. Roll-in-the-aisles hilarious. But the whole isn't quite the sum of its parts. This is a series of loosely connected sketches that don't quite amount to an entire plot. When it's funny, American Wedding is very funny. When it's gross, American Wedding is very gross. When it's cute, American Wedding is very cute. But in between those moments, there's not a lot going on. I felt about this movie the way I did about Old School. It succeeds at being exactly what it intends to be, and that will likely cause orgasmic waves of pleasure to roll over the film's target audience. Conservatives or morally upright people who stumble into this movie will need a valium.

The premise is simple enough. Now that college is over, our American Pie hero, Jim (Jason Biggs), has decided that he wants to get serious about life. That involves asking his girlfriend, Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), the ex-band camp babe, to marry him. Once the unorthodox proposal is accepted, Jim and Michelle's friends and family gather together to plan the wedding. For Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), the actual ceremony is only a sidelight to the central event: the bachelor party. And, when a quirk of fate makes his presence necessary to salvaging the bride's perfect wedding vision, Stifler not only takes charge obtaining the stag night's entertainment, but starts romancing Michelle's younger sister, Cadence (January Jones).

Normally, dogs appear in movies to be saved from natural disasters. In this case, however, they nearly represent a natural disaster, at least as far as Stifler is concerned. Imagine two of the most repugnant things that can happen with a dog outside of Freddy Got Fingered, and you can guess what happens here. One of these scenes actually caused me to cringe and momentarily avert my eyes, and I'm not a squeamish person. Since this is obviously what director Jesse (son of Bob) Dylan intended, he did a good job.

As one might reasonably expect, the bachelor party is American Wedding's high (or should that be low?) point, at least as far as generating laughs. Like any good piece of comedy, it starts out slowly, then builds to an uproarious climax. Without giving too much away, it features two surgically-enhanced strippers (who, in American Pie fashion, show just about everything), a pair of uptight conservatives, and a lot of chocolate sauce. (No dog this time.) For pure laughs, the second-place finisher to the bachelor party is Stifler's dance-off in a gay bar.

The actors are all familiar with their roles, and handle them with the ease of people slipping into comfortable clothing. Jason Biggs' Jim is as likeable as he is inept. Alyson Hannigan's Michelle is all the more adorable because of her naughty side. These two click, and represent one of 2003's most appealing screen couples. Eddie Kaye Thomas' Paul and Thomas Ian Nicholas' Kevin do exactly what they did in the other movies. Eugene Levy, wearing his best dead-pan expression, is on hand to once again dispense advice that is sometimes so graphic that his son would rather not hear. And, in a role expanded to account for his soaring popularity, Seann William Scott's Stifler is just as profane and boorish as ever (although the movie does try to soften him around the edges). Newcomers include a pretty-but-bland January Jones as Stifler's love interest and the inimitable Fred Willard (who, despite being underused, still has a great scene) as Michelle's father.

The first American Pie was funny, fresh, bawdy, and profane. The second American Pie lost much of the humor and freshness, while retaining the vulgarity. American Wedding actually elevates the level of coarseness, but brings back the comedy. There's more energy here than in American Pie 2, and more potential to offend than in any movie since Freddy Got Fingered. If you think you're going to like American Wedding, you probably will. If you don't, you probably won't. I guess the next time out, we'll get to see how Jim and Michelle handle being parents. I can imagine what will happen to Stifler in that oneā€¦

American Wedding (United States, 2003)

Run Time: 1:38
U.S. Release Date: 2003-08-01
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Content, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1