In the original screwball high school comedy, "American Pie," it was all about our hero, Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs), losing his virginity and a particular piece of pastry. The screwball college comedy sequel, "American Pie 2," dealt with Jim's rites of passage into the responsibilities of adulthood...and more pastry. Now, it's the next step and Jim must face his biggest challenge of all when he and his fiancée, Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), plan an "American Wedding."
I had seen the original "American Pie" and, besides the wonderfully befuddled performance by Eugene Levy as Jim's dad, I found it to be a sophomoric teen guy flick that appealed to the lowest common denominator - sex. There was the usual banter and ragging among the key players, lots of toilet humor and much akin to film's like "Porky's." I didn't see "American Pie 2" but expect it was more of the same. I figured, with the third in the series dealing with the sanctity of marriage, what the heck, it might not be so bad.
Surprise! While "American Wedding" runs down the expected checklist - toilet humor, sex humor, doggie doo doo humor (or gag, which is a more appropriate word - you'll see what I mean), pubic hair humor, straight-guy-in-a-gay-bar humor, even sex-with-dogs (sort of) jokes and, of course, the wedding cake - there are enough laughs and comical gross outs to keep all chuckling (keeping in mind that lowest common denominator). One of the reasons for this is that the principal characters, Jim and Michelle, are not the focus of the film. Sure, their wedding and all the pratfalls surrounding it are the catalyst for the action but it is the side paths that make "American Wedding" amusing.
Seann William Scott, as the foul-mouthed, dirty-minded, over-sexed Stifler, reprises his previous perfs, but with a difference. When he first enters the scene he is just as we knew him from before. He says whatever is on his mind, usually swear word-laden, and sex is premier on his mind. But, when he meets Michelle's pretty, virginal sister Cadence (January Jones), he changes his tack and becomes the living embodiment of a Ken doll. He's polite, a real gentleman and courteous to Cadence's mom. He thinks he's in like Flint, until Jim's other friend, Finch, joins the fray.
Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is everything that the real Stifler is not. He is genuinely polite and courteous and he, too, has a major crush on pretty Cadence. But, since Stifler stole his aw-shucks-nice-guy persona, Finch goes the bad boy route and, to his pleasant surprise, she likes it! This begins a battle of wits as each of the opponents attempt to pitch amour to Cadence. This little war makes for the most fun in "American Wedding."
The supporting cast does their job well, especially Levy as Jim's dad. The actor delivers his deadpan lines with the humor you expect as he moves from being embarrassed about sex talk with Jim to telling his son far too much - more than Jim will ever need to know - about his own sex life. Eric Alan Kramer plays a gay pimp, of sorts, who befriends the boys and helps them out when Stifler says he is looking for strippers for Jim's bachelor party. (For all of its bawdy humor "American Wedding" is very PC politically.) Fred Willard and Deborah Rush play Michelle's dad and mom but are only allowed to be the recipients of the looniness, not participants.
"American Wedding" has a huge, built in audience waiting for it and, if the reactions of the screening audience are any indications, it will be huge. It doesn't hurt that the 14-24 year old male audience get to see strippers Officer Krystal and Fraulein Brandi (Nikki Schieler Ziering and Amanda Swisten) shake their luscious stuff. I give it a B-.
After losing his virginity to pastry in high school and gaining more one-on-one experience in college, Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs, "American Pie") believes band camp girl Michelle Flaherty (Alyson Hannigan) is the one for him. It's time for an "American Wedding."
This movie achieved the unusual - made me laugh out loud - not once, but several times. Unfortunately, the humor starts off great and slides into the sophomoric, gross-out and cliched by film's end, but at least the film's final payoff (the return of Stifler's Mom (Jennifer Coolidge, "A Mighty Wind") is a good one.
Coming from the decidedly weird perspective of someone who has never seen the first two installments, (although it's easy enough to jump into the 'Pie' world), bride Michelle's combination of perky and horny is mighty off putting, but the third in the series smartly concentrates on Stifler (Seann William Scott) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) in their quest for her sister Cadence (series newcomer January Jones, "Anger Management") with the bride and groom's wedding plans at the mercy of Stifler's escalating antics.
Things begin on a ludicrous note as Michelle decides to get frisky underneath a restaurant table on the night Jim's set to propose. Jim's Dad (Eugene Levy, "A Mighty Wind") rushes the forgotten ring to the restaurant just in time to have a climatic conversation with his son, who then makes a pantless proposal in full view of elegant restaurant patrons. Things look up when Stifler learns he's been excluded from wedding preparations and crashes Jim's engagement party in Rube-Goldbergesque style (involving a cake, Jim and Michelle's parents two dogs). After promising to teach Jim how to dance, Stifler's entrusted with bachelor party arrangements.
"American Wedding" is really about the maturation of Steve Stifler, who, like the Grinch, appears to grow a heart after nearly wrecking Jim's wedding and his chances with Cadence. We get our first inkling of the 'emotional' side of Stifler when he accompanies the guys to Chicago on Jim's quest to get Michelle the perfect dress (Steve's in it for the big city partying of course). When Jim, Finch and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) are directed towards a club to find a certain dressmaker, Stifler's into the wild and crazy vibes until he's made to realize he's in a gay bar. Incensed when he's rejected ('Everyone wants a piece of the Stifmeister!') by Bear (the good-natured Eric Allen Kramer, "True Romance"), Steve displays an insecure need to be loved. Then he displays some insane dance moves (to the likes of "Maniac," "Sweet Dreams," Bananarama and Duran Duran) in a 'dance- off' seduction with Bear that's inspired - the funniest bit in the film.
Screenwriter Adam Herz's ("American Pie") best idea is to pull a switcheroo on the long- running Stifler/Finch feud. When Steve shows up at a local pub all prepped up and acting like a choir boy in order to impress Cadence, Finch responds by morphing into the foul-mouthed Finchmeister. Cadence shocks Steve by leaving with Finch, but Steve's locked into trying harder in his new persona. This helps him wiggle out of a difficult situation when he starts Jim's bachelor party with Bear (in buttless chaps), Bear's 'girls,' Fraulein Brandi (Amanda Swisten) and Officer Krystal (Nikki Schieler Ziering, "Austin Powers in Goldmember"), a chocolate-syruped Finch and bound 'n gagged Kevin in Jim's home on the night Jim had planned a serious dinner with his future, stuffy in-laws Mary (Deborah Rush, "The Good Girl") and Harold Flaherty (Fred Willard, "A Mighty Wind").
Things begin to go stale as the final touches are put on the wedding. Once again Jim Levenstein's crotch makes contact, this time indirectly via an air duct, with baked goods. One of the Flaherty's dogs ingests the wedding ring entrusted to Stifler, who of course retrieves it in the form of a 'chocolate truffle.' Stifler has a close encounter of the gross kind with Jim's Grandma (Angela Paton, "The Wedding Singer"). The bride has a heart-to-heart with Jim's dad that's a poor imitation of his chats with his son. While the humor of this third act is forced, the film coasts on good will, Biggs's sincere musings about the importance of his friends and Seann William Scott's high energy antics putting his wrongs to right. Eddie Kaye Thomas's droll presence is a plus throughout.
Director Jesse Dylan ("How High"), new to the series, keeps things moving along at a bright clip. "American Wedding" should be the movie that breaks this summer's sequel slump, but I'll pass on the honeymoon, thanks.
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