Another two years, another 'American Pie' movie. This time around, there is great change afoot. The principle cast is cut nearly in twain, removing an extra layers of unnecessary dialogue and side plots. Chris Klein, Mena Suvari, Natasha Lyonne, Tara Reid, Shannon Elizabeth, Chris Owen, and Casey Affleck, all veterans of both prior films, have been put on ice, leaving the cast members who actually have stories (and Thomas Ian Nicholas, for some reason) to handle a more delicate subject: marriage. Perverse mishap and disaster filled marriage. Whereas 'American Pie 2' showed us a group of kids who hadn't grown up one lick, this sequel, which takes place around three years later (give or take, due to no specific timeline being mentioned, the only hint being college graduation) shows us the hurdles of stepping into adulthood and responsibility in that awkward young adult-to-adult phase.
"Well, Michelle, we did it. Happy graduation!"
Well, at least we know the quality of the writing hasn't changed, if the opening lines are any indicator...Jim and Michelle are finally doing it. No, not that. They've been doing that for some time. They're tying the knot! With Michelle tied up arranging the wedding of her dreams and handling the arrival of her sister Cadence (January Jones, before she learned how to be an ice bitch), Jim's duties before the big day aren't much easier, as he has to convince her parents (Deborah Rush and Fred Willard) that he's good enough for their daughter. Easier said than done, considering Jim's penchant for horribly inappropriate disasters. Will the wedding between the hapless perv and the geeky nympho go on without a hitch, or will their friends find a way to sabotage the event?
'American Wedding' is a slight step up from 'American Pie 2.' The exclusion of redundant or entirely unnecessary characters frees up time to spend with the others, to get to know them, which fixes one of the bigger mishaps. The reliance on outdoing the previous films does remain, though. Fortunately, some of the "gross out" moments of this film fare better, even if some are painfully unfunny and not even that uncomfortable level of embarrassing where you empathize for a character.
Jim is, well, still Jim, so one can expect more than a few horrific sexual mishaps, though this time masturbation isn't one of his downfalls. Due to the "up the ante" downfall of any sequel, we're given some pretty "out there" moments, from mock bestiality, to coprophagia, pubic hair fiascos, and even a sequence that borders on, how shall we say, romancing the unwilling..., all in an attempt to keep fans of the series from crying foul at a serious attempt at a film. Heck, there's even an excursion to a gay bar, where Stifler discovers he may not be the draw he once thought he was. The writing doesn't miss this opportunity, though, as Steve's offense taken to the thought of rejection, even by those he would reject in less than a heartbeat reminds us that the cocksure hooligan is still an egoist at large.
While previous films had minor adult interference, what with Jim's Dad (yep, that's his character name) and mother often adding to his misfortunes, this film adds another layer, with Michelle's parents putting pressure on the future son-in-law they just met. While Rush is embarrassingly overacting, Willard brings the goods, stealing a few scenes in Eugene Levy fashion, his straight man getting more bent as the film progresses. Michelle is also a major change in dynamics, as her screen time in previous films, despite her importance, was minimal at best. She's suddenly allowed to be as hot as she is, not just a bizarre looking pony-tailed geek. This works wonders in filling the shoes Shannon Elizabeth would no longer wear.
'American Wedding,' despite the addition by subtraction, does sometimes fall flat on its face. The major set piece, Jim's bachelor party, is a nightmarishly unfunny failure. In the unrated cut of the film, the sequence is expanded dramatically, and the entire bit plays as one unfunny skit after another, montaged in a fashion that makes continuity seem irrelevant. Keeping track of the states of undress for all the characters can pull you right out of the scene, while only Stifler's man child nature survives the stripper onslaught. Another major concern is how much of a cartoon Stifler turns into in this film. His various grunts and chimp-like noises make him seem like he's regressed rather than matured, and it's rather distracting to see the actor act the part of a fool, rather than a jerk as he was in previous films. Throw in some excessive "convenience" to make the plot move along, and drama that is resolved so readily that it doesn't quite add anything to the film, and there's a lot of waste in this feature.
While including Willard added significantly to the humor quotient, the only good to come from Cadence's dynamic changing debut is the fact that Finch and Stifler both act out of their normal selves, with Stifler attempting to be sensitive (didn't Oz do that in the first film?) and intelligent, while his foil does his best Stifler impression. It's a fun side plot, but adds some unnecessary drama to the mix. This film tries too hard to move from point a to point b, and features a number of very dry, uninteresting, overblown segments that try to force the humor, whereas before it came naturally to the characters. This isn't a bad film, really, and can actually stand on its own two legs, but it definitely isn't a good film. It's a good thing the series took a break from going theatrical at this point, as I couldn't imagine how big a failure a fourth film would have been around 2005 or 2006.
The Disc: Vital Stats
All three films in the original 'American Pie' trilogy come to Blu-ray on Region free BD50 discs, housed in non-cut-out eco-cases, beneath attractive slipcovers that replicate the artwork beneath, with blue spines instead of plain white. The BD-Live on this disc is solely used to load two random pre-menu trailers. This particular release is a three disc set, though it offers no additional content over the two disc sets found on the other films (more on that later!).
A major problem with this disc is the way Universal now is not using a menu before disc play. While the film defaults to the unrated cut of the film, if you are watching extras, you're in for a pain in the ass. Even if you pause the film and select an extra, when it is complete, the film resumes. There's no way around this, no way to get to a top menu. Considering the amount of extras found on these three discs, this is hellish.
For the third film in the series, Universal is back to the AVC MPEG-4 encode at 1080p.
The video is disappointing and frustrating. The opening sequences have horribly blown out flesh tones, making characters extremely red, and contrast is blown to smithereens. The picture stays overly warm for the majority of the film, to the point that even Finch's moles can disappear in the "either too red or too damn white" aesthetic that is human flesh. Hair is often indistinct and clumpy, while solid colored background elements have some minor banding. Edge enhancement can be spotted with less effort this time around, while numerous bits of blurriness lead me to wonder about excessive DNR application, with lawns that regularly look painted on they're so undefined.
This one just isn't pretty.
While the video elements constantly change in this series, the audio stays the same, again with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track setting the sound stage.
Bass is excessive this time around, with the soundtrack elements getting so overpowered that you can hardly hear the guitar riffs of the Foo Fighters. The bass in the gay bar sequence is much less brutish, allowing music to be heard cleanly, but it doesn't come from all angles in this segment, which is a major disappointment. Rear use is solid, with plenty of activity in the more crowded sequences, but then there are moments, like the chanting football team surrounding Jim, where their noise only comes from the front speakers. Rears shouldn't be this hit or miss, especially considering how natural they sound when they're utilized properly.
This track isn't horrible, but it sometimes forgets what it's doing.
This set includes a bonus DVD copy of the film, and features both cuts, theatrical and unrated, on the Blu-ray disc. Oddly, there's no theatrical trailer included this time around.
'American Wedding' fixes a lot of the problems with 'American Pie 2,' but still has its own set of pratfalls. While we initially thought the story was complete (and would have ended on a good, natural note), we have more 'Pie' coming, including the return of cast members once jettisoned, so this is the slimmest of the bunch. The gross out is still there, though sometimes this film tries too hard and falls flat. This Blu-ray disc falls flat on the video, a bloody mess if ever there were one, while the audio is passable. Again it's the extras that save the day, though this third film doesn't have the mega-feature or excess of commentaries like the previous films. This makes for a necessary refresher course before the new film, but doesn't demand a purchase from owners of the DVD.