American Pie 2 was a really funny sequel to American Pie, but it also had a lot of bittersweet truth about it. High school was over and the old friends had branched out to different colleges and it was getting harder and harder to keep in touch with each other. Towards the end of American Pie 2, you got the feeling that it might be the last summer the friends would spend together as they all had to face real life. You know how it is.
Maybe that’s the genius of the American Pie series, aside from the very funny gags and physical humor, that has made the films rise above mediocre offshoots like Not Another Teen Movie and Road Trip which only seem to understand gross-out gags, although not nearly as well as the makers of the American Pie films do. I mean, when Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), in American Pie 2, talked to his friends about the hard time he was having moving past the memories of high school, it had the honest truth that you don’t see in teenage movies.
The makers of the American Pie films couldn’t have gotten away with a film as breezy, but slight, as “American Wedding” if we didn’t already care so much about these characters. We know them by heart: Jim (Jason Biggs), the gawky and shy best friend type; Stifler (Seann William Scott), the party animal; Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), the cool intellectual, and, as mentioned, Kevin, the sensitive one. Who could forget Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy), who has an almost morbid obsession with his son’s sex life, which he lives vicariously through.
They’re all back together for “American Wedding,” which is the wedding between Jim and the awkwardly goofy Michelle (Alyson Hannigan). As the gang gets back together (except for the girls who aren’t in this film), I was almost expecting “American Wedding” to be a sort of teen sex comedy version of “Return of the Secaucus Seven” as the friends, having not seen each other for a while, reconnect, form new bonds, and try to recapture the past. There’s a bit of that in “American Wedding,” but the makers of the American Pie franchise aren’t stupid and so we get a lot more of the sexual hijinks on the run up to Jim’s wedding.
The biggest surprise in “American Wedding” is the fact that the film really belongs to Scott’s character, Stifler, as he tries to execute a plot to deflower Michelle’s maid of honor, her sexy sister, Cadence (January Jones). For his part, Jim, as you would expect, goes back and forth about his upcoming marriage while his dad gives him some brutally honest advice about what the future holds for him. The hilarious Jennifer Coolidge, sadly, only makes a brief appearance near the end of the film, but a little of her goes a long way as we saw in American Pie 2. There are some big laughs in “American Wedding” mostly due to Jim’s nervousness about the Big Day (Jason Biggs and Eugene Levy have great chemistry together), and a lot of near misses and some jokes that don’t work. Maybe part of the problem, for me, is that Stifler’s never been my favorite character. I’ve always thought that he was ideally suited for comic relief, but Scott does a good job with the physical humor and all of the characters are treated with respect in the film as they’re all given their own little moments.
And yet, “American Wedding” works because it pays tribute to these characters. I knew that “American Wedding” couldn’t be as funny as American Pie 2 just as that film wasn’t as funny as American Pie. It’s too hard to come up with new jokes (how could the pie scene from American Pie ever be duplicated?). What I really enjoyed was just seeing the characters again, possibly for the last time. They look older, hairlines starting to recede (though not as much as the thirty-something gang from the “Porky’s” films) and we’re almost as shocked as the characters are that the time’s gone by so quickly.
You get the feeling that the cast and crew of “American Wedding” know this, know that “American Wedding” should be the last film in the series and that making more films would probably be pushing things too far. I’ll miss them, but just like real friendships from high school, it’s probably a good idea to move on. That being said, I would very much like to see “American High School Reunion.”