American Wedding
Grade: B+
Year: 2003
Director: Jesse Dylan
Writer: Adam Herz
Genre: Comedy
Rated: R
By Scott Spicciati

Jesse Dylan’s “American Wedding” is the third film of this phenomenal teen comedy series. Everyone remembers the tube sock scene, and the welcoming of Nadia, the foreign exchange student who wowed a lot adolescent moviegoers back in 1999. Ever since the first film, which became a mega-success overnight, the series has spawned a cult following, and those a part of it have a reason to see “American Wedding.”

Many of the familiars we’ve grown to like are absent in the third installment, probably for the same reason why Linda Hamilton was MIA in “Terminator 3,” either that or the story has no need for them. “American Wedding” narrows on a few and expands to include some newbies, all while never straying from the Pie formula which includes scenes of comedy, the sick and gross, and of course the obligatory brief nudity.

I will not list any background information whatsoever on the returning cast other than their names because seeing this movie is pointless unless you have seen the first two. Much of the humor depends on what we learned in the previous films, and the success of this one solely relies on your alliance to the entire trilogy.

The only way to appreciate this installment that is slightly less funny than #2 and nowhere near as original as the original, is to have followed the characters with great interest. We meet up with Jim Levinstein (Jason Biggs) and his girlfriend of three years Michelle Flaherty (Alyson Hannigan) at a fancy restaurant for a nice evening out. Jim proposes to Michelle, but not before the first gag of the movie is executed that also involves the great Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy).

After the first act, the plot is about the planning of the wedding and all of the preparations that need to take place. All who is left from the Pie gang are best friends Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas). Paul is a little more philosophical this time around, and Kevin is still Kevin, the static character who’ll make fans laugh in his last “To the Next Step” toast.

The infamous Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott) also returns as the unwelcome, uninvited guest to the party. His role in this film is more important than in the previous two. He appears less secure of himself this time around, and he will soon learn why when the truth of his popularity is realized.

Roger Ebert said this movie is likable because we care about the characters, something rare in most raunchy teen comedies. He couldn’t be more correct. Each character has a purpose and the multidimensional depth to go along with it.

The movie supplies a good stream of laughs, but you can tell the writers struggled with this one; trying to outsmart (and outgross) the previous films. Take Stifler’s character. In the first film, he drank certain “fluids,” in the second he was urinated on, and what happens in the third definitely takes the cake. He has the distinct honor of being the focus of the nastiest scene in the movie, and one of the nastiest scenes in 2003, but it’s one we can accept as it doesn’t venture into unseen territory.

Some of the funniest scenes in the film come courtesy of Eugene Levy, whose character Jim’s Dad (the continued capitalization of “Dad” suggests he goes by no other name) is always guaranteed to give us a good time every time the camera is on him. There’s so much to like about him that there could be an entire movie just about Jim’s Dad. It’s unfortunate that the majority of roles he’s been given lately suit the likes of “Dumb and Dumberer” and “Bringing Down the House.”

Several newcomers make their way into the family. Michelle’s sister, Cadence (January Jones) has flown in to make the wedding. She is a sophisticated girl who has instantly caught the eye of Stifler. Her parents have arrived with her, Marty and Harold (Deborah Rush and Fred Willard). They are like those movie-type in-laws who have a problem with their daughter marrying a boy from a less-privileged family. In this case, there is a hint of concern with their Irish daughter marrying a Jewish boy.

During a toast at the reception, the father of the bride shows acceptance of Jim’s faith by citing a few Jewish phrases which gets a nodding approval from Jim’s Dad until Harold goes too far with the line, “"I hope we can sit many happy shivas together."

Stifler will try to win Cadence’s pants and at the same time the acceptance of her parents by throwing a straight routine that involves quoting famous authors wearing a sweater around his neck. The extraordinary effort put into Steven’s new personality becomes the subject of his true character and the obstacles he will face before the movie ends.

Like religion, homosexuality is also a part of the humor. Stifler unintentional walks in a gay bar, but it ends with him participating in a rival dance competition with Bear (Eric Allan Kramer), a husky, not-so-typical gay man who soon becomes friends with the gang; an essential addition to the group if there ever is a fourth installment.

As Stifler is responsible for being the focus of the gross out scenes, Bear is the focus for some of the funniest. His contacts include Officer Krystal (Nikki Ziering), a dominatrix with a whip, and Fraulein Brandi (Amanda Swisten), her accompanying Swiss maid. They along with Bear are the stars of Jim’s funny, but unfortunately brief bachelor party.

With the exception of a few scenes, “American Wedding” is slightly tamer than the first two. It might be because the series is running out of gas, but it could also very well be that this film took a slightly different approach. This one is more about the characters and showing how they’ve evolved since high school. In some ways, the film is even sweet. No, you can leave the tissue box at home. You won’t cry, but you will laugh and you will smile.

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© Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. Contact Editor: Scott Spicciati