- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2003

Jim, the befuddled teen who “romanced” a pastry in 1999’s “American Pie,” is all grown up. He still has it bad for that girl from band camp, but in the new “American Wedding,” he wants to make their bond official.

That doesn’t mean this teen-friendly franchise has matured a lick.

Sexual escapades drove the first film and its slipshod 2001 sequel. What set the original apart from its “Porky’s” brethren was a verifiable sweetness that balanced out the vulgarity. Caught between hormones and friendship, the young characters waffled before getting their priorities in order.

“American Wedding” strips away the pretense of camaraderie between old pals. While the film plucks at our heartstrings, the music put forth is tinny and hollow.

Aggressively crude and occasionally funny, the film should alienate those who begrudgingly admired the original. Fans of gross-out humor may have stumbled upon cinematic nirvana.

No excrement goes unturned in “Wedding,” which sees turning our stomachs as the greater good.

To its sloppy credit, it does provide laughs, thanks to its kitchen-sink approach to humor. The film’s returning cast members also prove game.

“American Wedding” opens with Jim (Jason Biggs, who does exasperation well) proposing to his flute-playing sweetie, Michelle (Alyson Hannigan). The big moment quickly turns into a crass sex gag, the details of which won’t be described here. Once more, Jim’s dad (Eugene Levy) comes to the rescue of both Jim and the audience, with the missing engagement ring and droll delivery.

The “SCTV” alum is the voice of reason throughout the “Pie” films, spouting fractured parental wisdom that always lands on deaf ears. His presence is reassuring.

Of course, Michelle says yes, and soon it’s a dash through the usual wedding rituals, from finding the perfect wedding dress to planning the ultimate bachelor party.

Certain complications arise, including Jim’s grandmother’s objections to his marrying a gentile. That situation, like other obstacles cast about, eventually is ignored. There’s excrement to be gobbled, and the film dares not slow down long enough to explain or justify its repulsive manners.

The expletive-heavy dialogue in “American Wedding” quickly grows stale. One never feels compassion for the bride and groom’s bond, let alone understanding for the feelings shared by ex-schoolyard pals.

The film’s one bit of inspiration — the savage Stifler (Seann William Scott) helps Jim learn to dance for the wedding — gets buried between the blatant nudity and dog sex.

Eddie Kaye Thomas’ fey Finch character still can amuse with his world-weary visage, but letting him fall for a bubbleheaded blonde who quotes Voltaire robs him of his singularity.

Noticeably absent here are “Pie” regulars Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, Shannon Elizabeth, Chris Klein and Thomas Ian Nicholas — oh, wait, Mr. Nicholas is actually in the movie. He’s given so little to do it’s an honest mistake to overlook him.

And what do we make of Mr. Scott as the perpetually infantile Stifler? His work in the first film proved both brief and ferocious. The actor seemed a talent to watch, or at least one to sit back and stare at, agog at his blazing id.

In the meantime, he has lent himself to a series of weak projects, from Ivan Reitman’s awful “Evolution” (2001) to the recent “Bulletproof Monk,” both of which rightfully sank from public view.

Here, an unchecked Mr. Scott rages against the marriage machine and participates in a clunky dance competition set in a homosexual bar.

Director Jesse Dylan — son of Bob Dylan — doesn’t even try to corral Mr. Scott’s energies. Nor does he grasp when a scene has run on too long. Or a franchise, for that matter.

“American Wedding” marks the supposed end to the sex-comedy trilogy. The first slice of any pie is always the tastiest. By the third helping, it’s time to say “enough.”

@Byhead:

**

TITLE: “American Wedding”

RATING: R (Sexual situations, frontal nudity, coarse language, excretory humor and drinking)

CREDITS: Directed by Jesse Dylan. Written by Adam Herz.

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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