The guys that won over audiences in 1999's American Pie return to the big screen again in American Wedding, the third film of the series that decisively tarnished the wholesome image of warm apple pie. Fresh out of college, the friends face another of life's milestones: marriage. Hapless, accident prone Jim (Jason Biggs) is tying the knot with his band camp floozy Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), and his pals Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) are determined to make sure the hitching goes off without a hitch. But even with the help of his good friends and his advice-dispensing dad (Eugene Levy), Jim faces disaster when rude, crude party animal Stifler (Seann William Scott) horns in on the festivities and threatens to ruin everything.
American Wedding sticks to the gags of its predecessors, and fans will readily recognize them all: Jim continues to be the bearer of bad luck, Finch continues to score with Stifler's mom, Jim's dad continues to engage in awkward conversation, and vulgar things continue to find their way into Stifler's mouth. Most of the routines are still funny, and a couple are even outrageous enough to inspire uproarious disgust. But a cloud of "we've seen these people do this stuff before" constantly hangs in the air, signaling that this franchise is hobbling on its last leg. Attempting to compensate for the lack of freshness is a blatant overdosing on the tried and true.
Nowhere is this binging more obvious than in the evolution of Stifler. The most popular Pie character next to Shannon Elizabeth's frisky sex kitten Nadia (sadly, she is nowhere to be seen in this installment), Stifler went from being the hilarious supporting guy to the Almighty Center of the Universe. He was always a highlight in the past, and giving him a more central role in American Pie 2 was a great move. But this time around, he doesn't steal the show--he hogs the hell out of it. The Stiffmeister overshadows everyone in this movie, and one has to wonder if the focus has gone completely astray when the grand finale is more about his life lesson in responsibility and less about the titular wedding. Even as a Stifler fan, I have to admit he is insanely overplayed in American Wedding.
In his move into the unending spotlight, Stifler also makes a sudden descent into loserdom. Maybe it's the way he giggles after his own stupid jokes. Maybe it's the way he drives a bus with no passengers. Or maybe it's the way he forces dogs to go down on him. Whatever it is, he has gone from throwing killer parties to hanging out with geeks and inviting himself to their weddings in only a few years. Drastic.
But the single biggest disappointment in this entire movie is the bachelor party. Considering the raunchy, immature hijinks that have defined the American Pie flicks from the beginning, one would expect the mother of all celebrations--a proper farewell to single life that leads to all sorts of troubles and adventures. But instead of this major orgy of vice that could occupy a good half of the movie, audiences get a brief, pathetically weak get-together boasting only two strippers and a guest list that barely extends beyond Stifler, Kevin, and Finch.
Those keeping score on all the key players will find that several characters from the first two American Pie films do not return for the third. Besides the aforementioned Nadia, noticeable absentees from Wedding's guest list include Oz (Chris Klein), Heather (Mena Suvari), Vicky (Tara Reid), Jessica (Natasha Lyonne), and "The Shermanator" (Chris Owen). None of them are essential to this third chapter, but it would have been nice to get a quick explanation of what happened to them. I have theorized that Heather is in prison for killing an unfaithful Oz, Vicky is turning tricks in Hollywood, Jessica is a programming director for Lifetime Television for Women, and Sherman has scored millions from an internet porn empire. But hey, that's just me.
Despite American Wedding's faults, it's unfair to say it sucks. After all, it easily manages to be funny and entertaining, the two most important qualities for this brand of comedy. An overexposed Stifler and an understated Finch provide a good comic balance. Meanwhile, Jim's dad keeps things rolling with his corny one-on-ones, thanks in no small part to comedian Eugene Levy's amusing delivery--from his analysis with Jim regarding Nadia's fine tail to his discussion with Michelle on the virtues of boning, he's the square parent everyone thinks is cool. "The MILF Guys" make brief appearances, as does Stifler's infamous mom. Then there's Kevin. He...well, he's still as boring as hell.
Guess you can't win 'em all.
Rating: 6 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)