American Wedding (2003)

(On DVD, May 2016) This third entry in the theatrical American Pie series deviates from the first two in at least two fundamental aspects, one good and the other not-so good. On the good side, it does try to make its characters grow up: Our series protagonist is now ready to marry his high-school sweetheart, and much of the movie repurposes the good old humiliation-comedy framework of the series to the wedding shenanigans. It works, and provides a nice sense of continuity and meaning to the series. More puzzlingly, the film chooses to focus on a subset of characters and a scope that seems far more narrowly focused. It simply seems as if something is missing. It doesn’t help that Stiffler’s been promoted to a lead character and that he seems to be made even more obnoxious early on to justify his eventual redemption. His final screw-up is so contrived as to defy explanation. Still, there’s some good work here by Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott, a few capable set pieces (the gay-bar sequence works well, for whatever reason) and the spirit of the series carries forward even in a more limited scope. I’ll say one thing, though: American Wedding is now partially redeemed by the existence of a fourth entry (American Reunion) that returns more closely to the roots of the series rather than letting it end on such a limited note.

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