'American Wedding' adds to stale series


Published: Friday, August 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 31, 2003 at 10:04 p.m.
The first "American Pie" was pretty tasty, a randy concoction of bare flesh and gross-out jokes that helped revive the long-dormant sex comedy genre in the United States. The second "Pie" was merely more of the same: cold leftovers milking a few more bucks out of the audience.
The third go-round, "American Wedding," pulls the last remaining niblets out of the fridge in hopes we'll bite one more time.
Don't. Not only has the material lost its freshness, this "Pie" has grown downright moldy. There are a few jokes that work - a bit of whipped cream spritzed on top - but the innards are congealed and nasty.
Several cast members from the first two movies are missing, having declined (wisely) to participate in the third. Jim, the horndog nebbish played by Jason Biggs, is marrying his band geek/nymphomaniac girlfriend Michelle (Alyson Hannigan).
Old buds Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) return to be groomsmen, and Jim's dad (Eugene Levy) is back, too, to dispense unquestioning love and clueless advice to his son.
Crashing the party is Stifler (Seann William Scott), Jim's crude high school tormentor with an unmatched sex drive and an unfortunate tendency to get horrid things put into this mouth. Stifler sets his sights on Michelle's sister Cadence (January Jones), even pretending to be a sweater-wearing sensitive guy when all she wants is a dude to use the f-word prodigiously and meet her in the linen closet for a romp.
There are the usual sex antics. The boys make a road trip to Chicago for Michelle's dress and get diverted into a gay bar, where Stifler has a dance-off contest with one of the patrons. Jim's stripper-laden bachelor party gets crashed by Michelle's parents, who already have had to endure the sight of their future son-in-law involved in an apparent four-way with Stifler and their two dogs.
Chris and Paul Weitz, who directed the first movie, are long gone now, phoning in their involvement for twin executive producer paychecks. Screenwriter Adam Herz is back, but his script barely registers as a story. The scenes progress as unconnected vignettes poorly stitched together. Jim and Michelle practically disappear during the middle part of the movie, which puts Stifler front and center.
Evidence points to a massive re-editing of the film. Early press notes for "American Wedding" set up the key plot point of Jim's grandmother being near death, so they only have two weeks to hold the wedding. That portion of the story has been omitted, although Grandma shows up briefly to get her bell rung by Stifler in the aforementioned linen closet.
As for director Jesse Dylan, whose only other feature is the marijuana comedy "How High," he needs to go back to film school. This is one of the worst-looking movies to come out of Hollywood. The camera always seems to be askew, so we're looking at the characters from a slightly canted angle, or they're framed poorly with their chins or the tops of their heads cut off.
And in watching "American Wedding," I've learned that Levy isn't nearly as funny when his marvelous head of helmet hair and Velcro-like eyebrows aren't visible.

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