Sunday, 31 July 2011

American Pie: The Wedding (2003)

THIS TIME, THEY'RE GOING ALL THE WAY

When the American Pie films began, they sought to muse on the rites-of-passage nature of the big steps in the relationships of those growing up, all whilst making jokes about semen and poop. The first film was somewhat juvenile, but also a very sweet and considered look at attitudes to sex in high school. The second film took the next step and looked at the progression of these relationships and what it was to find out whom you love. The natural next step from there is the biggest step – marriage. The planning of the event, the trials of uniting two families through matrimony and all that other stuff. Therefore, the cast (mostly) reassembled one more time for American Pie: The Wedding.

Jim (Jason Biggs) has finally found the courage to ask Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) to marry him. Now that a wedding is on the way, plans must be made for the big day. Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Stifler (Seann William Scott) are back in town and won’t let the opportunity for having fun slip by.

Adam Herz returned to flying solo on this third instalment of the series he launched back in 1999. Unfortunately, he had completely run out of ideas at this point. The script is so painfully unoriginal and generic, it could have been a standalone film with no connection to the previous movies whatsoever, with any sense of character completely jettisoned in favour of poor attempts at humour. The comedy sequences are atrocious, taking wild swings at the kind of nonsense that became tired years before. And none of them make any sense, either. One sequence has Jim accidentally cover his wedding cake in his pubes because he shaved them all off (seriously, what the hell?) and, instead of just putting the hair in a bin or in the toilet, he decides to put them out the window… huh? It’s not even like he did it in a panic because someone wanted into the bathroom, he just did it. Another bit has Stifler eating a dog turd because he told Michelle’s mother it was a truffle, and she wants to eat it. That’s just stupid. It’s made even worse when Michelle’s father insists that he describe the taste to his wife, “yeah, it’s so fresh… and it’s so creamy… it’s so good, yeah.”… are you kidding me with this? This isn’t funny. This is just dumb nonsense. Then there’s the unwelcome return from the homophobia that wrinkled the last outing, only this time it’s worse. The guys find themselves in a gay bar, because of an inconvenience of plot, where Stifler proceeds to be a complete dick to everyone because he didn’t know it was a gay bar and thinks all the guys want him. One of the patrons tells him that just because it’s a gay bar, doesn’t mean every guy wants to sleep with him. It’s a fair point, but it is somewhat undermined when that same patron ends up coming on to Stifler at various points throughout the rest of the film. And Christ, the less said about the utterly ludicrous bachelor party scene, the better. This film isn’t the amusingly awkward comedy of its predecessors, but an asinine farce with all the sensitivity and comedic dexterity of plane crash.

It also says a lot that several of the gang are missing from this film. Oz – gone. Heather – gone. Vicky – gone. Jessica – gone. Nadia – gone. They’re not even acknowledged in any way, rather just completely forgotten about. Either these characters just didn’t figure into the plan this time around; or the actors looked at the proposed ideas and bolted. In the case of the former, Herz made a huge mistake. In the case of the latter, those actors were the smart ones… and Herz still made a huge mistake. These characters deserved better than that.

Directorial duties for this film were handed to Jesse Dylan (son of Bob, which I’m sure is how he constantly gets introduced) and it’s not a great job. Ninety percent of the problem is with the script, so Dylan can’t be blamed for that. Also, the fact that we’ve got a largely new crew and we’re missing some actors on the roster means that there’s little of the familiar warmth been carried over, which Dylan can’t really be blamed too much for either. What he can be blamed for is the distinct lack of energy from most of the film, and the poor pacing throughout as well. Scenes seem to go on and on because they have no idea where the line is. There’s none of the tightness of the first venture, and a real lack of charm or fun from the whole piece. It just hangs together quite poorly. Again, this is mostly Adam Herz’s fault, not Dylan’s.

The cinematography on this film is rather ugly, too. The dark tones are aggressively harsh, giving the whole film an unnaturally oppressive air throughout. There’s no subtlety or nuance or softness to any of it, leaving the lights and darks to crash together in a very unappealing picture. Though each film has had a different director of photography, there was at least an effort from Mark Irwin to make the second movie look like the work done by Richard Crudo on the first, creating a subtle sense of visual continuity. Here, Lloyd Ahern has made no such effort, so the feeling that this film bears no relation to the other two is just exacerbated.

The actors are still good for the most part, but suffer from shoddy work in the scripting stage. Eugene Levy (pretty much the sole carrier of what little heart the film has) remains decent, though he’s given a bit more focus than really necessary. Eddie Kaye Thomas actually does a better job of playing the Stifler we know and love because Seann William Scott has been forced into playing a version of Stifler that is so absurdly inflated that it’s impossible to like him at all. In the past, Stifler was egocentric and crude, but rarely if ever crossed the line into actually offensive. In this film, Stifler has been made more stupid, more obnoxious, more unpleasant and there is nothing that Scott can do about it except gurn and cackle like a fool. It’s just made worse that most of the film is focused on him this time round

American Pie: The Wedding isn’t just a weak end to the (at the time) trilogy, but an overlong and painfully unfunny send off for (some of ) the characters that everyone had come to love in the past. All character depth and potential growth has been negated in favour of the kind of crass stupidity the original film managed to separate itself from. More than that, the cinematography is unpleasant and that mild sense of homophobia that came through in the previous film gets more of a show here. Bad show, kids. Very bad show.

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