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‘American Wedding’ (2003)

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Honestly, I pretty much forgot the film as soon as I saw it. It has one purpose in life, to be mindless entertainment to stop thinking for a few moments and revel in absurd banality. It was some cheap fun, cheap laughs, and a little bit of a touching story. And I have to admit, so as to let on to a small bias, I find Alyson Hannigan, who played Michelle, absolutely bewitching. I’m a sucker for romance and I easily fall in love with Hannigan. And, although I’m almost afraid to admit any of this for fear of being banished from the realm of respect, there were some pleasant surprises to find that were particularly fun to see. I, of course, won’t spoil them for you, but I can positively say the dog incident wasn’t one of them. So, to conclude this introduction, everyone needs some cheap fun, especially critics like us who think hard about everything. Something that requires no thought at all and you can forget as soon as its done.

‘American Wedding’ trades their trademark focus on the group of bachelors for a focus primarily on the very two to lose their bachelorhood, namely Jim and Michelle. Maybe it was a ploy to exploit their greatest assets in their franchise, the uncontested break out star within the series, and the cute wicca from the “Buffy” series, and band camp. Maybe it was simply an honest change to the next obvious step in the ‘American (insert noun here)’ money maker. Either way, it was a pleasant change. Of all the films, and with its new direction, this film has the strongest story and most character development of all the films. Unfortunately, that doesn’t say much, but its nice to know they tried.

Particularly interesting was their choice to develop Stifler’s character, played by Seann William Scott. Also interesting is the fact that they dummed him down first. It was like leaving college and driving a mini bus (oddly enough the second time for Seann Scott who stole and drove a similar bus in ‘Road Trip’ in 2000) simultaneously sucked out most of his more ‘street smarts’ intelligence, and drove him to a certain cheesiness and patheticness. I know what you are asking yourself, “So…. what exactly changed then?” Well, in the previous films he was the figure of experience, superiority, and knowing to this foursome of seemingly sad individuals. In this one, Stifler has been stupified to an almost ‘wacky’ subordinate to these same individuals, and without any of the what is now three really changing any since the first film. Was it necessary? Not in the least, and it would have better kept the group dynamic if he hadn’t been so irrationally changed. Or are the writers trying to say that the big guys in our schooling years immediately change over to pathetic tag-a-longs the moment they leave it all? Either way, the film would have been stronger without the unexplained change.

As far as his character’s development, however, Stifler for once grew in dimensionality. A curious thing to do to a flagship of the here-to-for winning group dynamic. His bold, loud, oblivious, obnoxious character was a potent element to producing this very dynamic. It both created a striking contrast to this otherwise drab group, and acted as a catalyst to get the mixture popping. Further boosting its success, was Stiflers constant embarrassment and repulsion at these characters while irresistably and proactively drawn to them. Part of this was already chipped away the second they dummed him down as previously explained. Still, they chose to risk it all by playing with the depth of his character. The film progressively shows the revealing of Stifler’s humanity, and even bringing it out boldly to the surface to become someone with almost as much thought and concern as any of the rest of the group. I won’t give much more away for fear of revealing too much, but it is a traditional hollywood comedy afterall, we all know its going to turn out with everything right.

All these elements to strengthen the narrative and characters worked, to a degree, in that objective. Further, it worked to a degree, as well, as an attempt to create a film a little different than its predecessors and a closing to the saga. It wasn’t simply a rehash, certain canine and such examples notwithstanding, of the previous two, which is a positive achievement. It similarly managed to successfully redirect our concern from the previous group of four to the brand new group of three in Jim, Michelle, and Stifler. However, it did lack the pure comedic punch of its previous hits in the process. Was it a worthwhile trade-off? Maybe. It is really a question too complicated and subjective to positively answer. It could have been done better I can definately say, some of these reasons I have already mentioned.

Any way you look at it, ‘American Wedding’ was in the end an alright movie, and a decent conclusion to at least this volume in the franchise. The comedy could have been better and better handled in most parts. But there were some relative gems, such as Stifler’s scene in the gay bar, although stereotypical in its occupants, the funny elements surprisingly didn’t rely on gay-bashing in any way but was very positive, and not actually relying on the stereotype itself for the real humor. I was rather impressed with how they created the true humor given the near universally used homosexual oppurtunities, and considering both the type of film and the fact that it is a big studio picture. If you have seen the previous two, go have some fun, without expecting anything spectacular. If not, what are you doing even reading this?

As a side note: Here’s a real winner of a title: “American Pie 3: Piece of Pie,” 2002’s working title for the movie. Wow, the utter genius amazes me.

Website: (http://www.americanpiemovie.com/index.php) No review this time, but there are lots of games and things to check out if you so desire. Just not me.

(Review ©2003 by Joshua Parkinson, posted originally at http://www.indestructiblecycles.com)

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  • I saw this on bootleg, but aside Eugene Levy, it left me somewhat underwhelmed.

    Can’t say I really want to see American Pie 4 the Diaper Years.

  • Oh please, no kids!

    My wife is a big fan of these movies, so I’ve seen them, except for this one. I’m sure I’ll see this one, too. I console myself with the thought that Hannigan is truly a joy to watch.

  • While I would probably watch almost anything with Alyson Hannigan in it, I just know there is a spec script floating around Hollywood with the phrase “Stifler’s grand-mom”.

    Or “why don’t we send the kids to one summer at band camp?”

  • If anything, the American Pie franchise has reinforced the genius of Eugene Levy.

    He is probably one of the most consistently successful SCTV alumni. He lives with his family in Toronto and has built some great characters in movies without the gear of being a star. He’s just funny (in some often not very funny movies).

    He does his stuff, makes with the wacky and moves on.

    I’ve never met him, but know if I did see him at Dooney’s, or Book City he would be a classy, warm fella all the way.

  • Ha! You know, surprisingly enough, I don’t think there was one mention of band camp the entire movie.

    Eugene I’m sure is a hell of a guy. And the guy reminds me of John C. Reily as well, although Reily is in the dramatic arena, always at the top of his game no matter what part, and severely under recognized and appreciated. But maybe its better that way.

  • John C. Reily is an awesome character actor, though I would have to put William Macey ahead of him, but for comedy, would have to say Stephen Root (King of The Hill, Oh, Brother Where Art Thou, Office Space) is the king of USAian character actors because he is the role, not the actor.

  • William H. Macy is incredible, but he has had relative acclaim, has had major roles, so he doesn’t really apply to the point I was making. And to compare Macy with Levy, I would have to say there isn’t a comparison. But Reily is definately the dramatic counterpart of Levy, although your comment sparked up a point in my mind that he isn’t necessarily a character actor, he has had other roles that shows he can do more than the same guy. But the point is there.. consistently top work in small roles and underappreciated. Macy is only underappreciated! Hey, did you see Macy in Seabiscuit? The only redeeming part of the whole mediocre bomb! I laughed my head off when I saw him! Shows he isn’t just a character actor either.