Eric D. Snider

American Wedding

Say what you will about the "American Pie" trilogy, but one thing is certain: The films are consistent. They are outrageously crass, vulgar and sexual, with a hint of sweetness under it all. Whether that's good or bad is in the eye of the beholder, but at least they seem to have been cut from the same cloth. That's more than you can say for most movie franchises.

"American Wedding," the third and allegedly final installment in the series, finds our young heroes at the end of their college careers and about to embark on life. Hapless Jim (Jason Biggs) and the dingbatty but sexually adventurous Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are about to get married, which is cause for much celebration among themselves, their families and their friends.

Unfortunately, the friend they'd rather avoid -- moronic profanity-spewer Stifler (Seann William Scott) -- catches wind of the nuptials and, Eddie Haskell-style, ingratiates himself with both families. (Jim's dad, played by the wonderful Eugene Levy, is back again, and we get to meet Michelle's parents, including a father played by Levy's frequent collaborator Fred Willard. Alas, Levy and Willard don't have much time together, and Willard doesn't get to do much at all.)

Stifler has the hots for Michelle's upright younger sister, Cadence (January Jones), and must put on a show of gentility around her. This irritates Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), who actually IS genteel and intelligent and would like to date Cadence himself. The Chris Klein character from the first films isn't around, nor is his absence explained. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is here, but he's more or less forgotten by the screenplay.

The film is essentially one embarrassing sexual situation after another, funny as far as those things go, but not terribly rewarding. The prize is Stifler, who has always had the films' best one-liners and who here borders on -- but does not cross over into -- the territory of being over-used. Much of the plot involves him, and he has the film's single funniest sequence: a dance-off at a gay bar.
Seann William Scott's performance is a tour de force of vulgarity. That may not seem like much to be proud of, but it involves a fair amount of proper timing, delivery and inflection. Swearing isn't automatically funny. You have to swear just right to EARN a laugh, and Scott can do it.

Scott, alas, also has an intensely disgusting scene that for me crossed the line between being coarsely funny and being too gross to even watch, much less enjoy. You will know it when it arrives, I promise.
"American Pie" (1999) revived the teen gross-out sex comedy and is noted in the film history books for that reason. What tends to get overlooked in it all is that most of the cast members are pretty gifted comedic actors, too. The trilogy is superlative, for its genre, because no one lets the fact that they're enacting vulgarity get in the way of turning in honest, legitimate performances.

Directed by Jesse Dylan (Bob Dylan's son, I kid you not) and written, as were the first two films, by Adam Herz, "American Wedding" has a few fantastically written and delivered one-liners, and more than a few other amusing moments, including (of course), several more instances of food-defilement. It also has that hint of heart under the layers of sexual ribaldry, giving it a soft, likable touch.

It is, as its predecessors, not a film I can recommend generally. Its language and content will offend many, and rightly so. But for what it means to be, and what it wants to do, it is largely successful. It made me laugh very hard many times, which was surely its intention.

Grade: B

Rated R, abundant harsh profanity, abundant vulgar dialogue, very strong sexuality, some nudity

1 hr., 35 min.

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