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Alyson Hannigan has American Wedding‘s funniest line. Watching in disbelief as the crass, crude, lewd, sexually motivated Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott) engages in an act of unprecedented unselfishness, her character Michelle gasps, “This is huge. It’s like watching monkeys use tools for the first time. ”
In another movie, I might not make a point about a throwaway line such as this, but in American Wedding, the morsel of wit is a grateful respite from the movie’s unrelenting barrage of crass, crude, lewd, sexually motivated humor. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you really have to like this kind of idiocy to enjoy this third, and if-there’s-any-God-in-HollywoodÂ final, installment in a series that should have ended before it ever started.
It’s impossible not to laugh throughout American Wedding, but that doesn’t make it a good movie (the same could be said twenty years ago of Porky’s). The second sequel to 1999’s breakaway hit American Pie, a coming-of-age comedy notable for a carnal encounter between Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) and a freshly baked apple pie, Wedding doesn’t let down its core fan base of snickering, pimple-popping teenage boys. It piles on the crudities like so many pigs-in-a-blanket overflowing on a platter of hors d’oeuvre, all the while ramming a message of love, tolerance and redemption down our throats.
Written by Adam Herz (who has penned all three films) and clumsily directed by novice Jesse Dylan (son of folk-legend Bob), the movie is persistently over-the-top and, in one instance involving Stifler and dog poop mistaken for a chocolate truffle, way beyond revolting. It’s John Waters without the camp value.
The movie opens with Jim’s proposal to Michelle, an event that, like so much else in this film, is fraught with humiliation and includes an implied blow-job and a “boner-through-the undies ” shot. Things go from ridiculous to insanely idiotic from there, as the couple lurch toward a wedding that has disaster stamped all over it. Along the way there are mishaps involving not one, but two dogs and a cake; shorn pubic hair that goes blowin’ in the wind (so that’s the answer!) and into the guest’s mouths; and a visit to a gay bar by Jim and his pals, Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Stifler, who proceeds to engage in the movie’s weirdest, most out-of-place scene: a dance-off with a big, burly queer named Bear (Eric Allen Kramer) who then becomes fast friends with the group.
An slapdash subplot finds Stifler and Finch competing for the affections of Michelle’s sister, Cadence (January Jones), the former operating under the pretense of being a well-mannered, intellectual preppie.
Gone — and no doubt glad of it — are Chris Klein, Tara Reid and Shannon Elizabeth, no explanation given. Nor needed. Hannigan, who’s developed a legion of Buffy the Vampire Slayer devotees, gets an expanded role, and she plays it with a wide-eyed, tongue-in-cheek glee that borders on dementia. Michelle is a self-proclaimed “nymph, ” and Jim, a self-acknowledged “perv. ” The two are perfect for one another.
Biggs has grown into his nose, though it’s often still the largest thing on screen, competing only with the lively bushy eyebrows of Eugene Levy, whose notable comic pedigree should come with a clause that he get better opportunities than films such as these. Another veteran, Fred Willard, shows up as Michelle’s prim and proper father. It’s a complete mishandling of the man’s gifts for creating eccentric, untethered laugh-out-loud characters.
Thomas Ian Nicholas’s Kevin remains a side-dish of mealy half-cooked apple sauce, though at one point one might almost wonder if he’s keeping a secret from his pals (he mentions an unseen girlfriend, after all, and is less-than-enthusiasticÂ when the buxom babes at the bachelor party use him as a whipping post). With his kinda creepy, kinda sleepy smile, Nicholas seems to have no other purpose than to fill screen space that might otherwise bear a VACANCY sign.
Finally, there’s Scott, who in recent years has forged a career playing action scruffians. Scott’s Stifler is more shameless and unappealing than ever — all the better, I suppose, for the character’s ultimate, if somewhat hasty, redemption. It’s hard to imagine why, at this point, Scott would even agree to play such a horrid character, but then money’s money.
Back when I was growing up, I remember my folks owned a lavatory book entitled Jokes for the John. American Wedding is the motion picture equivalent of that book — it turns whatever theatre it’s playing in into a great, big overflowing toilet.