Mark Reviews Movies

AMERICAN WEDDING

2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Jesse Dylan

Cast: Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Eddie Kaye Thomas, January Jones, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eugene Levy, Molly Creek, Fred Willard, Deborah Rush, Eric Allen Kramer

MPAA Rating:  (for sexual content, language and crude humor)

Running Time: 1:42

Release Date: 8/1/03


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Review by Mark Dujsik

So I guess this is the end of the American Pie series.  Who am I kidding?  It'll be back once someone realizes they need to fall back on something financially viable, but that's beside the point.  American Wedding tops off a trio of movies that helped to popularize the gross-out comedy for better or worse (no pun intended; the writer regrets the phrasing in retrospect).  The first two films were very funny and managed to keep the proceedings lighthearted and inoffensive (but still gross) by making the centerpiece gags relatively innocent and character-driven.  American Wedding feels a bit too much like the closing chapter in a series, where the ideas (if bodily function jokes can be called ideas) are starting to wear out and the characters may have gone as far as they can possibly go.  It's a bit of a shame too, because these characters managed to grow on us.  We shared in their happy times but, more importantly, laughed with their insecurities and at their most embarrassing moments.  We may be saying goodbye to these likable dopes, but we also can't help but think that they deserve a better send off.

It's graduation time for Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), and he's decided that one large step deserves another.  Jim wants his proposal to go off perfectly, but we know him better than to expect that.   The results are disastrous, to say the least, but she accepts, and the time for planning begins.  Two of Jim's friends from high school, Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), are still around and more than willing to help.  There's one condition all of them agree on: no Stifler (Seann William Scott).  The only problem is that Stifler is still around and is more than willing to crash the pre-wedding festivities.  Many adventures ensue as the boys travel to Chicago to find Michelle the perfect dress and assemble an unforgettable bachelor party.  All the while, Jim has his hands full learning to dance from Stifler and trying to impress Michelle's disapproving parents (Fred Willard and Deborah Rush).  And Stifler and Finch vie for the affections of Michelle's younger sister Candence (January Jones) by changing personalities.

Once again, the movie strings together a series of gags, although this time around, they are a mixed group.  The opening joke has Jim embarrassed in front of a parental unit again; this time as Michelle hides under the table at a restaurant to—you can guess—Jim's father (Eugene Levy) arrives with the engagement ring and gets comfortable.  It's a hilarious opening, possibly the best starting gag of the three movies, but the jokes go somewhat downhill from there.  One has Stifler, Jim, and Michelle's parents' dogs caught in an incredibly awkward position, and another features a dance-off between Stifler and a customer at a Chicago gay bar, which is amusing but odd and out-of-place.  The first relies on our acceptance of both the characters' stupidity, although we really only question one's intelligence.  That's the problem with another gag in which Jim shaves his unmentionable area for the wedding night and throws the waste out the window.  This is a guy who has super-glued himself to himself, but that was a mix-up; this is just common sense.  The best gag is the bachelor party, which is pure farce.  Characters enter and exit in the worst ways and at the worst times and are forced to put a reasonable spin on everything.

I think the reason the first two films worked so well, though, wasn't the gags but the characters.  A few of them are missing here, and some of the absent ones we liked better than a few—ok, one—that remains.  Eugene Levy's dad is sure to be missed, and as one-dimensional as he is, we know him well.  We anticipate the result when Michelle asks him for advice on her wedding vows, because we know she's getting in over her head.  I also realized how much Finch, the nerd who's learned to use what he has, and Eddie Kaye Thomas' dry delivery has grown on me.  Kevin and actor Thomas Ian Nicholas have always been the weak spots in these characters and this cast, and the filmmakers are smart to keep his appearance obligatory.  They are wise to put Stifler in the spotlight.  The wedding is on autopilot, but Stifler is volatile.  He becomes ostracized from his friends, upping the stakes for and eventually leading to a minor maturation of his character.  There's also a moment of poetic justice in which he's forced to eat what he dishes out so much (I admit with a bit of shame that it's the movie's funniest scene).  Fred Willard does the most with relatively little and is a nice addition to the cast.

Because so many members of the original cast are missing from American Wedding, we assume there will at least be a cameo-filled ceremony and reception, but there isn't.  It's appropriate, because there's been a progression of the usefulness of characters in the series.  Those that have been used to their furthest potential are gone, and now, the remaining characters have reached that point as well.  It's time for a farewell.

Copyright © 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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