REVIEW: American Wedding [2003]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: R | Runtime: 96 minutes | Release Date: August 1st, 2003 (USA)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director(s): Jesse Dylan
Writer(s): Adam Herz

“We should all be so happy”

You don’t know how great it was seeing Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Jim (Jason Biggs) shoot down Kevin’s (Thomas Ian Nicholas) latest attempt at the “taking the next step” speech in American Wedding. I love it when filmmakers—in this case stalwart Adam Herz steering the ship with his third director in as many installments—can mock themselves for the formulaic redundancies fans easily pick out. College is over and the East Great Falls boys have officially become citizens of adulthood. The only step left in their lives is living. Virginity has been averted, friendships have been saved, and love quite literally has been in the air. High school is in the distant rearview and marriage has become the next check stop towards achieving the ever-elusive American Dream.

Realizing the girls and Oz had become wallflowers with little to do, Herz excises them from the plot completely. Continuing on from American Pie 2‘s decision to focus on Jim finding his soulmate—band geek Michelle (Alyson Hannigan)—the franchise sticks to their coupling while allowing those who remain in their circle of friends to bring the crazy. In other words, Seann William Scott is let loose upon the world without filter. A bus driver and football coach at the old high school now, Stifler’s ego refuses to let him be left off Jim and Michelle’s guest list when weddings are synonymous with bridal party hookups and bachelor party nudity in his warped mind. So, weaseling his way in by promising to give the groom dancing lessons, the film ultimately becomes the Steve Stifler show.

And while on paper this would appear to be a very bad move, it works to hilarious effect. The level of obnoxiousness is off the charts at the start, but once Michelle’s younger sister and Maid of Honor Cadence (January Jones) arrives, things begin to hit their stride. Stifler and Finch compete to win the young beauty’s affections and for all intents and purposes become each other in the process. Hearing her talk to Michelle about what she looks for in a man on separate occasions, a foul-mouthed Finch and a sweater-wearing, civil Steven are born. As a result, American Wedding is soon as much about Stifler becoming a real human being as Jim and Michelle’s union. We literally watch a heart grow through a progression of constipated faces showing how unnatural feelings truly are to the Stifmeister.

So, while story is toned down in lieu of asinine comments, gross-out sequences involving pubic hair, and a bachelor party that devolves into a disjointedly cut together mess of sexual situations between Stifler, Kevin, Finch, and two domineering strippers, the comedy is retained. Hannigan gets a couple dirty comments in despite relegated to the voice of reason with Biggs; Nicholas finds himself a prop used without any real relevance; and Eugene Levy‘s sage advice comes off more fortune cookie rhetoric than ever before. It’s a shame the core who had been so integral to the story are demoted to plot personnel, but letting Stifler run wild does make up for the resulting shortcomings. Worth watching for his dance-off against Eric Allan Kramer‘s “Bear” at a gay bar alone, Scott makes the movie.

A few additions to the cast help liven things up in the wedding portions too, though. Michelle’s very conservative parents—played by Deborah Rush and Fred Willard—infuse a bit of a culture clash with the very liberal views on premarital sex the rest of the characters obviously hold and Jim’s Grandma (Angela Paton) gives her own archaic two cents on the ceremony. Rush is a hoot with faux Stifler’s ‘charm’ and Willard is at his best when confronted with a bare-chested French maid, but can never be anything more than outsiders to the players we’ve grown to love. Even Jones’ Cadence is refused full access since we’re more interested to see what happens when Finch and Stifler’s charade ends than whom she’ll pick as a date.

Because these new characters are mere fodder for the string of gags composing the whole, it’s hard to really say much more about it. Taking place during the time between proposal and “I dos”, the only room for growth comes from Stifler’s metamorphosis into a person capable of feeling guilt. Yes, there are speed bumps on the way to the alter—a trek to Chicago for a wedding dress, the approval of Michelle’s parents, and the safe-keeping of an antique ring unoriginally finding its way into the colon of a pet dog—but we all know Jim has a knack to achieve his dreams no matter what. So we sit back, forgive the fact its story could be told in a twenty-minute short, and prepare to laugh at the juvenile actions of immature man-children. Trust me, though, for fans of the saga it’s enough.

[1] The bridal party: Stifler(Seann William Scott), Cadence (January Jones), Jim (Jason Biggs), Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas)
[2] Universal’s American Wedding – 2003
[3] The not-so-happy parents of the bridal couple — Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy), Michelle’s Dad, Harold (Fred Willard), Michelle’s Mom, Mary (Deborah Rush) and Jim’s Mom (Molly Cheek)

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