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American Wedding (2003)

by Steve Habrat

American Wedding, the third installment of the American Pie franchise, should have been the most mature entry in the series. The film, after all, is about our horny hero Jim marrying kinky band geek Michelle and living happily ever after. Our little man is all grown up and embracing adulthood! Instead, American Wedding turns out to be the most immature of all of the films. Director Jesse Dylan and screenwriter Adam Herz basically edge Jim out of the frame every chance they get and replace him with the abrasive Steve Stifler, who hogs most of the spotlight in this warmed over installment. There are still a few laughs to be had in American Wedding and the inclusion of some new faces is a welcome break, but half the original cast missing takes quite a bit of the fun out of the festivities. Seriously, what did Mena Suvari, Chris Klein, Shannon Elizabeth, Tara Reid, and Natasha Lyonne have to do that was more important than the franchise that was keeping money in their bank accounts? At least Eddie Kaye Thomas and Thomas Ian Nicholas had the good sense to say yes this project.

American Wedding picks up with Jim (Played by Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Played by Alyson Hannigan) dining at a fancy restaurant where Jim plans to pop the big question. Naturally, Jim gets himself into a humiliating situation and makes a complete ass of himself, but the red headed Michelle says yes to becoming his bride. Then, the planning for the big day begins. Jim frets over the big day while his best buds Kevin (Played by Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Finch (Played by Eddie Kaye Thomas) continuously reassure him everything will turn out okay. Jim’s fears become reality when Steve Stifler (Played by Seann William Scott) crashes the couple’s engagement party and insists that he be included in the wedding party. In return, he will teach Jim how to dance, something Jim is far from good at. Jim reluctantly accepts Stifler’s offer and allows him into the wedding party. Naturally, Stifler begins destroying the wedding and things go from bad to even worse when Finch and Stifler begin fighting over Michelle’s younger sister Cadence (Played by January Jones). Meanwhile, Jim finds his own embarrassing situations to get himself in, continuously making himself look bad in front of Michelle’s parents (Played by Fred Willard and Deborah Rush), making them begin to question if he is fit to take their delicate daughter’s hand.

American Wedding is the most lavish looking American Pie installment yet, one that is obviously a big Hollywood production and rich with Michael Bay-esque lighting. I’m stunned there weren’t a few explosions thrown in for the hell of it. For as good as everything looks, it can’t make up for the fact that the jokes are hitting rock bottom. Things really get desperate when Stifler has to eat a dog turd just to get a few belly laughs out of the audience. Don’t get me wrong, there are some jokes that land and sequences that play out smoothly, but they all just seem so grandiose for a film about a bunch of hornball teenagers. It’s borderline cartoonish at points and a bit hard to wrap your head around. An impromptu bachelor party is smooth and chuckle worthy but ends up going a bit too far the longer it plays out. Another sequence in a gay bar, where Stifler finds himself in a dance-off with another man, is just plain nonsensical and wholly unfunny. Even the awkward moments that Jim finds himself in are getting a bit thin, especially when Michelle darts under a table in the middle of a fancy restaurant to perform fellatio on him when suddenly, his dear old dad arrives and sits down in the middle of it.

While Biggs and Scott used to share the laugh spotlight, American Wedding sees Biggs taking a backseat to Scott. This is Scott’s film from start to finish, even if Biggs has been our hero of the franchise since that beginning. In this film, Herz forces Stifler to learn some hard life lessons, especially leaving his party boy ways in the dust. The film does make the clever move of asking Finch and Stifler to switch personalities to win the affection of Cadence, hysterical because Finch and Stifler are mortal enemies. The personality switch is by far my favorite part of American Wedding and I did enjoy Stifler’s transformation, but I wish we had stuck more with Jim than Stifler and the side characters. Another gripe I have with American Wedding is that the film does absolutely nothing with the character of Kevin, who stays in the background for the most part. It’s almost like they just stuck him in to reassure us he was still around and that Nicholas said yes to attempt to hold on to some aspect of fame.

American Wedding is never a terrible film and there are some moments that are rambunctious fun. There is, however, a lot wrong with American Wedding, some of which could have been resolved by giving the franchise a little bit of a break. They didn’t need to dump this thing out as quickly as they did. My advice would have been to wait a little longer and try to work in the rest of the original cast. At times you can tell the film was rushed into production, as some aspects of it seem under developed, weak, and more than a little desperate. The end result is a mixed bag, one minute you are wrapped up in the film and the next minute you are checking your watching, wondering how much more you have to endure. It is no surprise that the series went straight to DVD after this installment because, lets be honest here, there was nothing else left to elaborate on other than making Stifler grow up. Like a slice of apple pie that has been nuked in the microwave, this piece is a little soggy, stale, and warm only in places, but is still edible.

Grade: C+

American Wedding is now available on DVD.