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AMERICAN WEDDING
Extended Unrated Party Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Seann William Scott, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Fred Willard, Eugene Levy
Director:  Jesse Dylan
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Universal
Features:  See Review
Length:  104 Minutes
Release Date:  January 6, 2003

“How did a perv like you turn into such a great guy?”

Film **1/2

American Wedding is a joyful reunion of sorts, both among the characters of the infamous first two American Pie movies, as well as between them and us, the viewing audience.  I confess a certain fondness for these likable oddballs, as well as for the formula of the movies, which manages to inject a sense of true sweetness into otherwise raunchy, gross-out comedy.  That’s a hard juggling act to pull off, but the cast and crew have managed to pull it off not once or twice, but three times.

That being said, the third and possibly final installment in the series left me just a little unsatisfied.  Sure, I laughed hard and often, and sure, I sill loved these warm, funny people.  The chemistry is still winning, the envelope-pushing jokes are still original, shocking and hilarious, and the overall premise of Jim (Biggs), our hopefully inept hero marrying Michelle (Hannigan), our favorite nymphomaniac band camp girl has allowed these characters to grow up over the course of the movies (think how awful the Porky’s series became by comparison, when the actors were still playing high school students with bulging bellies and receding hairlines).

The complaint is simply a curious sense of inconsistency.  The funniest bits are where the comedy, as outrageous as it is, evolves from the situations and scenarios at hands.  Some parts of the film seem a little forced.  Some of it takes our attention away from the heart of the story, which is the union of Jim and Michelle.  Maybe I should have just taken this picture at face value, but I was actually carrying some of my empathy and memories of these characters’ experiences from the previous films with me.  I thought every moment that diverted away from them was a letdown.

As with parts one and two, Wedding starts with yet another embarrassing moment for Jim as his attempt to propose to Michelle ends up…ah, a little under the table.  But soon the wedding is on, and his best friends Kevin (Nicholas) and Finch (Thomas) are by his side.  So is the inimitable Stifler (Scott), still as brash and crude as ever, and determined not only to crash the wedding (“It’s time to boom boom with the bridesmaids!”), but to throw the bachelor party of the century.  This unrated version shows a little more of said party than you remember from the theatrical version…I’ll say no more.

The best comedy bits, apart from the opening, involve Stifler losing the wedding ring and the rather extreme measure he has to endure to get it back, a dance-off between Stifler and a big burly guy in a gay bar, Jim trying a new…how shall I say?…hairstyle, and best of all, the way the bachelor party winds down.

But as I said, a certain affinity and sweetness permeates all, mostly the love between Jim and Michelle, which is honest and winning.  One of the pleasures of the three movies has been seeing Michelle bloom from a band geek into a beautiful young lady, even if she still can’t keep her sex drive intact.  And of course, Jim’s dad (Levy) is still the greatest…frequently perplexed and fumbling to cover up his son’s embarrassing situations, but always ready with a smile and a loving word.  His ability to still take pride in Jim despite his son’s frequent misadventures is part of what gives these pictures their heart.

A few of the former key players are absent this time around, including Chris Klein, Mena Suvari and Shannon Elizabeth, but they aren’t really missed.  Only Elizabeth’s character is even referenced, when Jim asks his dad if HE would have turned down sex with Nadia.  “Why?” he responds.  “Did she say something?”

This film is plenty entertaining…I should make that clear…just a little hit and miss.  The first two films seemed to flow effortlessly through the comedy; this one struggles a little from time to time.  It’s still worth seeing, but don’t be surprised if you wax nostalgic for the earlier pictures while you watch.

It’s been suggested that this will be the last slice of Pie, but I’d like to openly request that the cast and crew go back at least one more time.  This film doesn’t play like the magic is lost, just a little misplaced…and frankly, wouldn’t you love to see one more chapter where Jim is about become a father?  I’d be first in line to buy a ticket.

Video ***

A solid anamorphic offering from Universal…good colors and details, not much in the way of grain or compression evidence. 

Audio ***

The 5.1 soundtrack is good, but not overly demanding.  The .1 channel mostly serves the film’s song soundtrack.  Rear stage usage is minimal but effective, and dialogue is clean and clear throughout.

Features ****

Universal didn’t hold their peace when it came to packaging this disc with extras!  For starters, there are two solid commentary tracks:  one by director Jesse Dylan and actor Seann William Scott, the other by cast members Jason Biggs, Allyson Hannigan, Thomas Ian Nicholas and Eddie Kaye Thomas.  Both are fun listens.

There are also some deleted scenes and outtakes, along with a “Stifler Speak” featurette that explains what makes Stifler…well, Stifler.  A “Cheesy Wedding Video” serves as a visual scrapbook for the blessed event.  There are also some talent files.

Exclusive to this unrated disc are two extra featurettes:  “Grooming the Groom”, detailing the film’s…er, particularly close shave, and “Enter the Dominatrix”…no explanation necessary.  There are also previews at the beginning you can’t skip past (boo!), plus “Nikki’s Hollywood Journey”, which follows our leading dominatrix as she heads to the premiere.  And, of course, rounding out is the rated theatrical cut of the film for your viewing pleasure.

Summary:

And so we leave Jim and Michelle, not to mention Stifler, Finch and Kevin to live happily ever after.  American Wedding may not have been a perfect sendoff, but it’s heart shows through its flaws.