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Blu-ray Review: American Wedding

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After the success of the first two American Pie movies, another sequel was basically inevitable. It’s unfortunate they couldn’t have come up with something better than 2003’s American Wedding. This film reunites some, though far from all, of the cast from the first two movies. Given that Jim (Jason Biggs), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicolas), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), and Stifler (Seann William Scott) are all back, the most notable absence is Oz (Chris Klein). Not only is he missing, he’s never even mentioned by his best friends throughout the entire the film. Almost all of the girls – Vicky (Tara Reid), Heather (Mena Suvari), Jessica (Natasha Lyonne), and Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) – are absent and forgotten. The sole returning female character is Michelle (Alyson Hannigan). Not only is American Wedding missing cast members, for the most part it’s also missing laughs.

This time around, the returning characters are set to graduate college. The movie is not really about that, though it might have been a better idea. Instead the focus is on Jim and Michelle’s wedding. This one seems to be going for a Meet the Parents vibe. For reasons that go unexplained, Jim has yet to meet Michelle’s parents. That doesn’t make a lot of sense since they have been dating for several years. Michelle knows Jim’s parents well. It’s not like her family lived on the other side of the country. Whatever the reason, Jim doesn’t know them, and wants to make a good impression. Unfortunately, everything he does manages to come across wrong (hence the Meet the Parents vibe).

American Wedding is miles apart from its two predecessors. Nearly everything about it seems different, including the tone, the jokes, and the characters themselves. Those elements all seem to be on loan from an American Pie rip-off (not that the first film was that original to begin with). Most perplexing of all is Stifler (Seann William Scott). Stifler is now a total lunatic. He is manic, seems to have dropped a more than a few IQ points, and basically seems like a bad impersonation of the original character. In one of the special features, Scott says he finally decided to play Stifler as crazy. I’m not sure why he was allowed to do this, but it was entirely the wrong move. There isn’t anything about Stifler in the third movie that seems like a natural progression from the first two movies.

The story is not well structured, as events follow one another with no real logic. One of the most inexplicable scenes is Jim’s so-called bachelor party, which Jim himself was apparently not invited to. There are no guests other than Kevin, Stifler, and Finch. They are joined by two dominatrix strippers and their handler. It’s all very bizarre, but not in a funny way. Why would they plan a bachelor party and not invite people to it? The entire party sequence seems to be an attempt to outdo everything from the previous two movies. It fails on every level. The attempts at comedy are simply too outlandish.

The only source of minor amusement is Stifler’s attempt to act like Finch (or at least his perception of Finch) in order to woo Michelle’s sister Cadence (January Jones). He thinks if he can win over Cadence’s parents he will have a chance with her. Finch realizes what is going on, and starts to act like Stifler to win the free-spirited Cadence’s attention. The scenes of them squaring off are pretty funny, but there are not enough of them. Had this plot threat been more focused, the film might have had more of a chance of being memorable. Instead this feels like a half-hearted obligation. At least with Cadence the writers introduced a new character, which is the closest American Wedding get to freshness. If they couldn’t get more of the original cast, the least they could’ve done was acknowledge their absence. All that’s here is a painfully unfunny film that lacks the good-natured fun of the first two.

Everything about American Wedding is a mess, and unfortunately that extends to the Blu-ray’s picture quality. The 1080p transfer is muddy and dark, with black crush drowning out much of the detail in dark or shadowy scenes. Unlike the first two Pie movies, this one has a moodier look overall. Dark onscreen elements such as wardrobe, actors’ hair, or furniture all become solid, textureless, black shapes. The good news is the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, while not remarkable, is without problems. Unlike the previous two Pie films, this Blu-ray has an appropriate amount of bass. The dance-off scene with Stifler is a good example of how full the music sounds throughout. Also improving on the earlier film’s high definition mixes, there is much more activity from the surround speakers.

Both the R-rated and unrated versions of the film are included. The special features, all in standard definition, have been carried over from the previous special edition DVD. The two commentary tracks, one with director Jesse Dylan and Seann William Scott and the second with various cast members, are kind of boring to be honest. There are deleted scenes, outtakes, and various featurettes. Some of these, including “Enter the Dominatrix” and “Grooming the Groom,” help shed light on why the film didn’t work. The filmmakers and actors interviewed all express an attitude of supreme confidence, as if they could do no wrong.

With the quality control so low on the set of American Wedding, it’s unsurprising the film faltered. Here’s hoping that 2012’s American Reunion, which does reunite the entire cast, reclaims the spirit of the first two.

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About Sherry Lipp

Sherry Lipp is an entertainment and food writer who specializes in film and television reviews. She has published the gluten and grain-free cookbook Don't Skip Dessert.
  • Thanks for the heads up. At least my expectations will be less now.