It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
May the great gods of cinema forgive me, but I am becoming fond of the "American Pie" characters. Like regulars in a beloved sitcom, I forgive them anything as long as they remain true to their natures. Having survived high school and college in the first two "American Pie" movies, here they are in "American Wedding," still ankle-deep in precious bodily fluids and doggy do, and although the movie cheerfully offends all civilized notions of taste, decorum, manners and hygiene, it has a sweetness that is impossible to discount, and it is often very funny.
The secret is that it loves its characters, too. Most raunchy comedies despise their characters, who are stupid, crude, shallow and vulgar. "American Wedding" wants only happiness for Jim and Michelle on their wedding day, loves their parents just for being who they are, and sees that even Stifler has a rudimentary heart, and wants to be loved.
That Michelle Flaherty (Alyson Hannigan) and Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) have survived the humiliations, embarrassments and scandals of the first two movies and still want to get married speaks well for their optimism and resilience. Jim's dad (the irreplaceable Eugene Levy) deserves a medal for understanding his son as only a father can. The movie opens with dad rushing a forgotten engagement ring to a restaurant, where he fails to realize that Michelle is under the table. Levy once again plays dad as a good and imperfect hero who can keep a hopeful face in the midst of scandal and disaster. He is joined this time by Michelle's dad, Harold, played by Fred Willard, who you will recall as the idiotic dog show announcer in "Best in Show." Rising to toast the union between his Irish family and the Jewish family of his new in-laws, he brings real warmth and sincerity to his hope that "we can sit many happy shivas together." The plot, if there is one, involves Jim's determination to learn to dance before his wedding, Stifler's hopeless infatuation with Michelle's virtuous sister Cadence (January Jones), the efforts of Jim and his wedding party to keep the troublemaker Stifler from the wedding, and a couple of walks on the wild side--one when Stifler ends up in a dance contest in a gay bar, and another when a bachelor party is interrupted by Michelle's parents.
Seann William Scott has polished Stifler into a character who is on the edge of becoming a verb, as in "he stiflered the whole crowd." Proud possessor of a gigantic ego, able to conceive and stage-manage appalling scenarios, incapable of understanding why he is not universally loved, Stifler is, we all secretly know, the character in this movie we like the best. He is so incurably optimistic in the face of the crushing handicap of being himself. When he loses the wedding ring and the dog eats it and he retrieves it in what, you realize after a moment's thought, is the only way possible, what he does to keep his secret from the new mother-in-law (Deborah Rush) is simultaneously noble and nauseating.