Review by Dustin Putman
2 stars out of 4
The collective luck of Jim, Michelle, Stifler, Finch, Kevin, and the
filmmakers has finally run out with "American Wedding," the third
installment of 1999's "American Pie" and 2001's "American Pie 2."
Whereas its predecessors effortlessly blended outrageous and raunchy
comedy with an unden iable truth and sweetness, the humor in "American
Wedding" is more often uneven than not and its serious moments less
convincing and real. Written by Adam Herz as if he was more won over
by his salary than a genuine passion for the story he was telling,
the film is ultimately burdened by this very notiona distinct feeling
of nothing more than obligation for all involved.
Why the movie wasn't simply called "American Pie 3" is anyone's guess,
even if the new title says it all. Upon graduation from college, nice
guy Jim (Jason Biggs) digs up the courage to propose to long-time,
former band camper girlfriend Michelle (Alyson Hannigan). When she
accepts, the extended wedding plans begin, with Jim seeking the aid
of best friends Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas)
to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch. It doesn't, of
course, especially when self-involved horn-dog Stifler (Seann William
Scott) catches wind of the marriage plans and attempts to romance
Michelle's beautiful younger sister, Cadence (January Jones).
If the high school-set "American Pie" set up characters we grew to
love, and the college-themed "American Pie 2" continued their natural
progression with a surefire accuracy, then "American Wedding" never
feels like anything more than tacked-on. Post-college marriage is
certainly the next step in these characters' lives, but the writing
this time isn't nearly as sharp or witty, and most of its characters
have ridiculously little to do. In fact, past cast regulars Chris
Klein, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari, Shannon Elizabeth, and Natasha Lyonne
are not only nowhere to be found, but aside from one passing exception,
are never even mentioned. This is not only a disappointment to the
series fans who have invested into all of the characters, but it is
lazy on screenwriter Herz's pa rt. Their absence is strongly felt.
"American Wedding" does try to follow the formula that worked for
its precursors, but by now, that formula is getting notably stale.
For the most part, the jokes arrive out of necessity rather than through
naturalism, even if several set-pieces are quite funny. Jim and Stifler's
run-in with a wedding cake and two dogs is a comic highlight, the
culmination of its setup ribticklingly ballsy, while a bachelor party
gone awry reminds of a superbly edited screwball comedy. Less successful
is Stifler's dance-off in a gay bar and Jim's untimely decision to shave his pubic hair.
The center of the film is, inevitably, the wedding, yet Jim and Michelle
are pushed aside in favor of countless Stifler antics. Jason Biggs
and Alyson Hannigan made a wonderfully charismatic team in the previous
two features, but here share too few scenes together to be lastingly
effective. Hannigan's Michelle, the best thing about the series, has
been softened to the p oint of rarely being given a good one-liner
or character scene. Mostly, she stays in the backgroundsomething Michelle
never did in the first two. Hannigan is an excellent actress, severely
underrated, and she deserves better. For that matter, so does Thomas
Ian Nicholas (2002's "Halloween: Resurrection"), given nothing satisfactory
to do as Kevin.
The biggest flaw on director Jesse Dylan's (2001's "How High") part
is in handing over lead role duties to Seann William Scott (2003's
"Bulletproof Monk"), as Stifler. Scott, another standout of the first
two movies with his showy supporting part, wears out his welcome quick
as the lead, and hasn't smoothly drifted back into Stifler's shoes.
Something feels very off about Scott's performance here, and his facial
expressions sometimes border on creepy when that clearly wasn't the
actor's intention. What does work is his romance with Michelle's free-thinking
sis, Cadence. January Jones (2003's "Anger Management") makes for
a bright, earthy counterpart to the more out-there Stifler. Also making
requisite appearances are Eugene Levy (2003's "A Mighty Wind") as
Jim's faithful dad, and the invaluable Jennifer Coolidge (2003's "Legally
Blonde 2") as Stifler's Mom.
"American Pie" and "American Pie 2" blended smoothly together, a beautifully
crafted rites of passage duo that were always funny, but not afraid
to remain honest about friendships and romance. In comparison, "American
Weddin g" feels tired and empty, a motion picture with a handful of
fine moments surrounded by one missed opportunity after the next.
And despite Jim and Michelle's climactic dance to The Wallflowers'
cover of "Into the Mystic" recapturing the pure magic of their loving
relationship, it does not excuse the fact that they are otherwise
shortchanged throughout. Making Stifler the star was a bad idea; a
loud and over-the-top creation like him is perfect for a supporting
role, but grates on the nerves when onscreen for longer portions.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a pie fornicator) to tell that
"American Wedding" is easily the weakest in a once-promising series.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman