Published Jul 01, 2003If you're going to title your movie American Wedding, you better have something archetypal in mind. Not just "a wedding" (indie scamp Robert Altman already threw that reception), the definitive American one. You don't necessarily want to have one of your lead characters, say, eating dog crap or fondling 80-year-old grannies in dark closets. Sadly, this stale, formulaic follow-up to American Pie and its sequel isn't even the gold standard for filmic dog crap eating. That honour still goes to the late Divine in John Water's Pink Flamingos. At least in Waters' film it was real.
The wedding in question revolves around Jim, the sad sack, insecure hero of the first two films, and Michelle, the libidinous flutist and band camp enthusiast. But in reality the movie isn't really about the nuptials, it's about the hyped-up, unfunny insanity swirling around them an insanity typified by adolescent lunatic Steven Stifler (Sean William Scott). An amusing addition to the first two movies when taken in small doses, Stifler's malignancy has spread like a profane cancer. He is Jerry Lewis on angeldust: lips wildly twitching, head moving erratically, hurling expletives at anyone within earshot. "Polish my nuts and serve me a milkshake!" he enthuses for no particular reason. Indeed. Director Dylan (How High) takes the reigns from Paul Weiz this time around, who serves as executive producer, along with brother Chris, but it's hardly a noticeable shift.
Ultimately, the main problem with American Wedding is that the formula has simply run out of steam. What shocked us into laughter in 1999 leaves our eyes rolling in 2003. There are a few genuine laughs arising out of the typically risqué sitcom-like scenarios. Eugene Levy offers, as always, a brief respite from the hack jokes as Jim's dad, but the new addition of Fred Willard (Best in Show) as Michelle's father is totally wasted. Why did no one manage to get Levy and Willard together in a scene? Maybe Christopher Guest should direct the definitive all-improv follow-up, American Middle-Age. (Universal)