The Scoop: 2003 R, directed by Jessee Dylan and starring Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Seann William Scott and Eugene Levy
Tagline: This time they’re going all the way.
Summary Capsule: Jim and Michelle try to tie the knot while Stifler tries to screw, er, mess it up.
Justin’s Rating: Eugene Levy’s eyebrows are formally recognized nation states.
Justin’s Review: I think the concept of comfort movies is not uncommon, even if my terminology for it hasn’t caught on quite yet. A comfort movie — like comfort food — is a flick that you watch repeatedly because you know that it’s a great film and it makes you feel a certain way every single time. Particularly if it’s a happy, pick-me-up affair. Everyone has their own short list of comfort movies which undoubtedly evolves as the years fly by, but the appeal remains constant. A lot of us like being in the mood for a specific type of movie, and instead of risking it on a film you’ve yet to see, it’s simply easier to pop in a well-established favorite. Sometimes we watch these comfort movies so many times that we’re able to quote them fluently, and in extreme cases, start carrying around spare copies in case you meet a stranger on a bus that hasn’t seen PCU and you can convert them on the spot. Hallelujah!
A close second to comfort movies, in terms of expenditure of energy and risk in watching, is the sequel. We keep our comfort movies because we know what to expect, and in a way, we generally know what to look forward to when a sequel comes to a THEATER NEAR US. Even though everyone agrees that 9.8 times out of 10, the sequel isn’t nearly as good as the first, it’s still easier to buy a ticket for one versus a completely unknown franchise, because you have a general idea what you’re getting into. There are always people out there who will gobble down sequels like cyanide-glazed popcorn simply because they liked the first one a lot.
As a movie reviewer — mutated, no less — I’m all too aware of how hard it is sometimes to work up the desire to pop in a film when I have no idea what to expect. Sometimes they’re surprisingly good; most of the times, they’re a complete waste. Unless, of course, you’re able to babble about them on an internet website. Then it’s time well spent. However, when American Wedding bubbled up in my Netflix rental queue, it was a relief to have a night where I was just dealing with a sequel to one of my old comfort films.
American Pie remains a beloved comedy on my shelves not only because it revived the 80’s “teens running in vain after tail” sex romp, but it did so with terrific humor and endearing personalities. At one point (or many) in all our lives, we were stupid for sex, even if we don’t want to share those stories too much. The American Pie series gleefully exposes the embarrassing moments of its characters seeking sex (stupidly), contrasting nicely between the immature “hummina hummina” attitude of lusty boys (and girls) with the maturity that should come with both relationships and this new sexual responsibility. The first movie was an instant classic; the second a dish of easy-to-swallow leftovers. It was basically the same film, as long as you replace “high school” with “college”, “parties at a friend’s house” with “parties at a beach house”, and “horrible masturbation experiences” with… well, “horrible masturbation experiences”.
However, American Wedding doesn’t seem so much of a true sequel to the first two American Pies as it does a spin-off. It has many, but not all, of the main characters (gone are Oz and most of the girls). Sure, it has the pacing of the American Pies — riotously funny scene, boring scene, emotional musical montage with punk music, repeat — the attention has long since drifted away from four teens and their quests to get laid.
Instead, amidst the hubbub of loser Jim and Michelle’s wedding plans, we have the Force Known As Stifler taking center stage. Stifler was one of those guys who was great as a secondary character, when he’d just say the F-word a lot and end up digesting foul liquids, but we’re on tenuous ground when he takes the lead. To give the filmmaker’s credit, Stifler not only gets some of the funniest scenes (including a dance off in a gay bar and impersonating Finch to get a goody-goody girl), but he also goes on a genuine quest from one-dimensional jerk to a jerk who’s at least growing up a bit (Michelle’s line killed me, when she said about Stifler giving a girl a flower, “It’s like watching monkeys use tools for the first time!”).
Other than the shift in focus to the series’ most popular character, American Wedding rates “good” in solid entertainment value. It’s more (and less) of the same, which means a bunch of socially awkward settings where a character is embarrassed by something sexually dumb they did, but that still proves very trustworthy for a laugh. The bachelor party, in particular, is outright hysterical, and probably worth a watch on the unrated DVD version for the added jokes.
The caveat to all this comfort is that American Wedding is hardly fair to most of its characters, including Jim and Michelle. They simply don’t get enough screen time, and what few Michelle scenes there were had me throwing my patio door open, shaking my fists in the general direction of Hollywood, and berating them for not appreciating Alyson Hannigan for her comedic skills. If you like Finch, you’re in luck; he gets a couple funny scenes opposite Stifler. If you like Kevin, so sorry Charlie; he’s just a placeholder character they brought back for face recognition and nothing else.
If you can stomach the one really gross “Stifler eating dog poo” scene — which had me seriously waffling between gagging and chuckling, but at least is better than the dog éclairs of Van Wilder — then American Wedding is a very safe bet for those of you who liked the first two. It’s probably an epilogue to the trilogy, and if so, it’s a fine one.
No pies were harmed in the making of this film, but one wedding cake bit the big one.
- It’s okay to spy on your fiancée if it’s for a good reason
- The Dance Off (anyone think of Zoolander?
- Silence of the Lambs reference
- LOTR reference
- We finally learn Jim’s Dad’s name: Noah Levinstein
Jim: [proposing to Michelle] Michelle, I’m going to ask you something that I’ve never asked you before…
Michelle: Is it kinky?
Jim: I don’t think so. No.
Jim’s Dad: Michelle, do you know why they call it “making love”?
Michelle: No, I just call it boning.
Jim’s Dad: Son, step away from the animal…
Michelle: Wow, Steve Stifler just gave a rose to a girl and meant it. It’s like, monkeys learning to use tools for the first time.
Stifler: It’s on like Donkey Kong, beeyotch.
Jim: Honesty, now — Honestly, would you have passed up sex with Nadia?
Jim’s Dad: Why? Did she say something?
Jim: Hypothetically, Dad.
Jim’s Dad: Oh, hypothetically. Well, I mean, you know, Jim, I’m a married man. I’m…
Jim: If-If-If you weren’t married.
Jim’s Dad: She’s a college girl.
Jim: If you were a college guy.
Jim’s Dad: In a heartbeat. Oh yeah.
Cadence: So, can I see the ring?
Stifler: Nope. Promised to keep it safe. It’s not leaving my pocket.
Cadence: Okay, Frodo.
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