Bye, Bye, Mr. American Pie

The pie-loving star of the film series heads to the altar with friends and dog poop in tow.

Advertisements for this third installment in the American Pie series do us a great service by noting that this film and its two predecessors are "classics." I appreciate this, because "classic" previously had the rather un-useful meaning of "exhibiting the highest quality," or "having lasting worth and significance."

Now, thanks to the good folks at Universal Pictures, it means "having at least one scene involving the eating of dog poop."

But, to be fair, there is only one scene of someone eating dog poop in American Wedding, showing a rare maturity and, perhaps, the tender ripeness of youth no longer fully in bloom, confronting, through a paucity of dog poop-eating sequences, the bittersweet realization of the omnipresence of death. Yes, the American Pie kids have finally grown up, and with this film, they bid us a sweet, dog-poop-flavored adieu.

Though I must say, this latest outing in the series that brought pie-boning to the public consciousness was largely tolerable, and occasionally amusing, especially when no one was eating dog poop. Eugene Levy, reprising his career-making role as "Jim's dad," is especially charming, and in spite of the fact that everyone now thinks of Levy as a comic genius of the first degree who should be worshipped like the Babylonians worshipped Baal, Levy is, in fact, a comic genius of the first degree who should be worshipped like the Babylonians worshipped Baal.

Further, there's a fine turn by Jennifer Coolidge as Stiffler's mom and even a decent performance by Sean William Scott as Stiffler. While there's certainly some reliance on gross-out humor (though I'm loathe to mention it, there is, for example, a scene where someone eats dog poop), the gross-out stuff is now so old-hat that it kind of seems cute. It's like, "Aww, look at all that pubic hair on the wedding cake. I could just hug it for a million years!" Of course, then you'd get frosting and pubic hair on your clothes, so don't, but you know what I mean.

American Wedding starts off, as all good movies do, with Alyson Hannigan as Michelle giving her boyfriend, Jim (Jason Biggs), a blowjob in a fancy restaurant. While she's doing her hose-jockey magic under the table, Jim awaits the arrival of his father (Eugene Levy), who is bringing an engagement ring. How romantic! Sadly, before Michelle can fully clean the pipes, Jim's dad arrives to have that talk that all fathers and sons look forward to: the one where dad tells you how proud he is while your girlfriend Hoovers your bad boy. It's an enchanting, dog-poop-free sequence that sweeps you in with the majesty and romance that only oral sex can bring to a film.

Now, you would think that once Jim had proposed to Michelle, nothing could go wrong, and the rest of the film would be free of tension as the bride and groom prepare for a life of legally sanctioned heterosexual union. Shockingly, it's not so. Indeed, in a big, big surprise, Michelle's parents do not instantly like Jim! The idea of having the in-laws disapprove of their daughter's fiancé is so cinematically novel that I was unable to fully grasp its resonance, and briefly dropped my notebook into my super-size diet bourbon.

Further, and moreover, Jim's enemy, Stiffler, demands to be invited to the wedding. Now, there's no way that Jim would tolerate this, so highly paid professional screen writers were brought in to determine that (a) Jim can't dance, (b) Michelle wants dancing at the wedding, and (c) the only person on earth qualified to teach dancing is Stiffler.

Apparently living in a world where the thought of finding a dance instructor through the yellow pages is anathema, Jim reluctantly agrees to invite Stiffler to the wedding in exchange for homoerotically charged waltzes which, like all professional dance lessons, include brief breaks for discussions of testicle shaving. Actually, there's something compelling about American Wedding's refusal to even try to find a good reason that Stiffler should be invited to the wedding. We, the audience, know that the movie's trajectory requires that Stiffler be there, so they just cut to the chase.

In fact, a lot of American Wedding works like that. Stiffler is given the wedding ring to hold. I wonder if he'll accidentally feed it to that dog? I wonder if he'll then have to eat that dog poop? Deep questions, but in keeping with the low-stress atmosphere of modern moviemaking, not hard to answer.

While a lot of the gags are so obvious that the current crop of space station astronauts actually reported seeing them coming from outer space, some of them actually work out pretty well. There are no deep belly laughs (unless the vague gagging feeling one gets while watching someone eat dog poop counts as a belly laugh) but there are a good number of chuckles. Still, I got the feeling that the audience at American Wedding wasn't there to see novel, or even amusing or funny entertainment, but because they now care what happens to Jim, the main character, and, to lesser extent, Jim's friends.

Thus, judged on those merits, the biggest weakness of this film is that it lacks original Pie star Natasha Lyonne, probably the biggest talent of the original bunch of kids, as well as Mena Suvari, Tara Reid and the goofy-but-lovable Chris Klein. All were too busy with non-dog-poop-related projects for this final installment of the series, and to varying degrees, all of them were missed. Nonetheless, if you're a fan of the first two films, I can't imagine you'd want to pass on this episode, wherein maturity and feculence combine to bring us the sweet sorrow of saying goodbye to these, our "American" friends.

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