American Wedding, the second sequel in the American Pie series, is a crushing disappointment in almost every aspect: crude without poetry, mawkish without reason, and utterly detached from its wonderful pedigree. I left the theater disheartened, saddened, embarrassed—and completely certain to see it again soon.
I suppose that’s a measure of just how much this series has become ingrained in this generation, since judging by American Wedding’s phenomenal first weekend at the box office, I’m not alone. It’s kinda baffling to be so attached to a three-film catalog of milky-fluid jokes and coming-of-age platitudes, but the moviegoer’s heart wants what it wants—and most of us wanted the third American Pie film to not suck.
It’s difficult to figure where this strained, desperate film went wrong. It was written by Adam Herz, the same guy who penned the first two, and produced by the same company. Some of its faults rest on Jesse Dylan, Bob’s spectacularly untalented director son, whose clumsy cuts and dull pacing are a seminar on sapping the life from a fictional world brimming with vitality and semen. The set pieces aren’t as clever, the one-liners aren’t as sharp and the story has lost the pulse of sex, youth and possibility. It’s still good pastry, but it’s no gourmet treat.
Three Michigan years after the last sequel, we open with another humiliation for Jim (Jason Biggs): His plan to propose goes awry, leaving him caught with his pants down—and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) servicing him—when his dad (the sublime Eugene Levy) shows up at a restaurant. As soon as Stifler (Seann William Scott) drives up to the engagement party in a school bus, the film trips on a key decision: The archetypal frat-boy asshole embarks on that well-worn movie path to redemption and humanity. Stifler’s evolution from a subversive supporting player to the main event is similar to Hannibal Lecter’s transformation into a leading man: economically necessary, given the character’s burgeoning popularity, but totally counter to the edgy qualities that made him what he was.
To follow American Wedding, it’s hardly even necessary to know any of the American Pie backstory, which is a shame. Any members of the cast with a career beyond the series (Tara Reid, Shannon Elizabeth and Chris Klein) or even self-delusions of a career (Mena Suvari, Natasha Lyonne) didn’t return for thirds, and Wedding makes absolutely no mention of their absence. Even the Shermanator turned this one down, for God’s sake.
Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) had no such commitments, of course, and Biggs again proves himself a fine physical comedian who would probably be working more if he hadn’t banged a pie four years ago. Levy, gloriously befuddled again, swipes every scene he gets, but he doesn’t get enough. Likewise, Hannigan is terribly underused. She has even less to do than in the original, when you didn’t even know her character’s name until the final 15 minutes.
Jim spends most of the movie embarrassing himself in front of Michelle’s visiting parents, who apparently have never been to East Great Falls even though their daughter went to high school there. Stifler has a hilarious dance-off with a burly pimp in a gay bar, he fights with Finch for the affection of Michelle’s pointless sister (January Jones), and the proceedings culminate at a preternaturally gorgeous resort with one more visit from Stifler’s mom (Jennifer Coolidge).
Just like Stifler teaching Jim how to dance, American Wedding goes through all the steps, but it can’t find the rhythm. It has little of the first film’s heart and even less of the second film’s boundless comedic energy. It’s a messy, incomplete way to finish something that began with such promise, and there’s only one way to make things right: Hello, American Divorce.