'Wedding' a Familiar Slice of 'Pie'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 1, 2003

SHOCK PREDICTION: "American Wedding" won't win an Oscar for best original screenplay.

But it knows the rules: People want to laugh, cringe with embarrassment and shake their heads in horrified disbelief at how far this thing dares to go. Producer-writer (and original creator) Adam Herz and director Jesse Dylan (who's also Bob's son and Wallflower Jakob's brother) oblige these expectations perfectly. If you do not bring pride, good taste or sense to this third "American Pie" installment, you'll have a good time. Of course, you won't admit it in front of respectable company -- who should know better than to ask, anyway.

In "Wedding," Jim Levinstein (Jason Biggs) intends to tie the knot with longtime girlfriend Michelle Flaherty (Alyson Hannigan). Of course, this sets him up for huge trouble in so many ways. As Jim goes through the groom-to-be's rites of passage, he screws things up at every turn.

When trying to propose at a restaurant, for instance, he ends up with his trousers around his ankles, with Michelle crouched under the table and several customers (including his dad) watching in horror. He still manages to ask for Michelle's hand.

More disaster awaits, as Jim weathers an unexpected stag party, attempts to impress Michelle's parents (Fred Willard and Deborah Rush) and tries to keep Stifler away from the wedding.

Ah, Stifler. As played by the satyrlike Seann William Scott, he's the joker in the pack, whose mission is to destroy all sense of stability and peace. He leads Jim and the guys into a Chicago nightclub (only to discover it's a gay spot), hits on Michelle's sister, Cadence (January Jones), and destroys the entire supply of flowers for the ceremony. He's shameless, sickening and disgusting and, naturally, I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Jim has his usual, uncomfortable conferences with dad (the always funny Eugene Levy), who tries to encourage his son with too much information. And Jim's pals Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) are back, too, most memorably when they stage that stag party, complete with busty, semi-nude hookers, unaware that Jim is about to enter the place with Michelle's folks -- intending to have a sedate, get-acquainted dinner.

The movie, which includes the requisite gross-out scenes (involving the wedding cake, as well as a nasty doggy doo moment) and a tour-de-force dance contest between Stifler and a muscular gay performer, is anti-serious, liberated and often very funny. And as long as Jim gets himself into embarrassing scrapes, which seems to be all the time (and as long as people keep paying to watch his torturous experiences), this "American Pie" series shows no sign of ending.

After all, there are so many more potential disasters for Jim to face in subsequent movies. How will Jim cope with a long-term marriage? What about first-time parenthood? How about the death of one of his parents? Or crazy teenage children? Or a midlife crisis? Or retirement? Ladies and gentlemen, there's a million different ways to bake that pie, and it's up to you whether you take a slice or not.

AMERICAN WEDDING (R, 110 minutes) -- Contains major gross-out material, including obscenity, lewdness, sexual situations and nudity. Area theaters.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company