American Wedding Review
The American Pie series should need no introduction. The first film popularised the teen gross-out comedy, and ended up being a surprisingly big hit. Whether or not you enjoy the sort of immature humour these films indulge in, it's hard to deny that the creators of this series have come up with a formula that works, and although a third movie might seem like overkill, the results prove that those involved have not lost their touch.
When the film opens, Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) have graduated from college. After a slapstick-laden prologue, Jim proposes to Michelle, setting in motion the main plot of the movie: the build-up to the wedding day. In actual fact, this premise really just serves as an excuse to indulge in some hilariously over the top comic antics, and in reality the set-piece situations are far better realised than the main storyline itself. By far the most successful of these situations is an extended romp in what turns out to be a gay bar. Admittedly, much of the situations are recycled material. The stag night sequence, featuring two hired dominatrixes, is really just a slightly different iteration of the lesbian scene in American Pie 2, but it all works well in context, and enough of a new spin is put on the proceedings to make you forget that you've really seen it all before.
It's when the film returns to the central plot that it loses its way, as there just doesn't seem to be a huge amount at stake for Jim and the others -- only their dignity. No matter how much Michelle's parents disapprove of Jim, no matter how much of a mess Stifler makes of the wedding plans, you never once get the feeling that the wedding ceremony will fail to take place.
American Wedding benefits greatly from a vastly reduced cast. Of the girls from the first two films, Michelle is the only one to return. Oz and Sherman, two of the most useless and/or annoying male characters, are also absent. The result of the smaller cast is a more focused plot, something that was sorely missing in the haphazard American Pie 2. While it would be wrong to claim that American Wedding continually sticks to the main premise, it doesn't have the "so what" feel that American Pie 2 had, whereby several characters seemed simply to be there to make up the numbers.
New to the crew is director Jesse Dylan, and with him he brings an array of new stylistic choices. The most apparent of these is the move from a 1.85:1 aspect ratio to 2.35:1. While this ratio may seem like an odd choice for a slapstick comedy, it actually ends up working wonders, especially for the many crowd scenes. Dylan makes surprisingly good use of the widescreen frame, and this is evident right from the first scene. We're not exactly talking Darius Khondji or Nicolas Roeg here, but the level of technical expertise is vastly increased over the other Pie films.
Without a doubt, the star of the film is Seann William Scott, reprising his role as the infuriating Stifler. It might as well have been called "The Steve Stifler Show", because he propels the story forward with his antics. This may seem like crazy talk, but I actually think Seann William Scott is a talented actor, albeit one who has been unfortunately typecast. Now playing Stifler for the third time (and arguably playing a Stifler-like character for something like the dozenth time), he has truly mastered the role and clearly doesn't care how idiotic he makes himself look. He puts everything into his performance and comes off well.
After Scott, the two best performances come from Eugene Levy and Alyson Hannigan, who are both tragically underused in the film. Considering that the story is meant to be about Jim and Michelle's marriage, Hannigan is more often than not an off-screen presence, which is a shame because she is one of the most talented young actors today.
The remainder of the cast are all so-so. None of them really stand out as being exceptional, but there is no noticeably bad acting in this film, unlike the last two films, where we had to put up with Tara Reid's woeful inability.
Ultimately, American Wedding is a gross-out comedy filled with immature humour and revolting pranks. As such, it's hardly Oscar material, but it does what it says and provides plenty of laughs. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts, the audience I saw it with responded fantastically, and although this is apparently to be the final film in the series, I honestly would not be averse to another installment.