American Wedding: Extended Unrated Party Edition!
Rated: Unrated and R (see notes)
Film Length: 104 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
Audio: English, French, & Spanish - Dolby Digital 5.1
NOTE(S): There are going to be more versions of this release on store shelves than there are bare breasts in the entire American Pie series, so make sure you get the right one! Also, the differences in the unrated version are slight, but some amusing footage was added back into the bachelor party sequence, and a much smaller amount of extended/additional footage was cut back in throughout the rest of the film. By the way, the Extended Unrated Party Edition also includes the theatrical edition of the film, and if the press release reads correctly, exclusive extras, so I would recommend picking this one up if you are in the market. Just make sure it says WIDESCREEN though!!!
Now, on to the review…
American Wedding, the third installment in the American Pie series, opens with what has become the series’ trademark, namely yet another embarrassing situation involving the bumbling yet lovable Jim (Jason Biggs). As the story begins, we see that everyone has graduated from college, except for Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), who dropped out and now works as an assistant football coach for East Great Falls High School. More importantly, Jim is about to propose to Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), after which point the two must feverishly prepare for what promises to be the most important day in their lives. However, a monkey wrench is thrown into the gears when Steve becomes pissed off that he has not been invited to any of their parties, or even made aware of their pending nuptials.
To get back at Jim and Michelle, Stifler crashes the party where Jim is to meet Michelle’s parents for the first time. If you have seen either of the first two Pie films, I probably don’t need to tell you everything goes to the dogs at this point. American Wedding also features subplots that focus around Stifler using Jim’s upcoming marriage as an excuse to throw a wild bachelor party, and then battling with Finch to win the affection of Michelle’s sister, Cadence (January Jones). Both of these generate some very funny moments, especially during the bachelor party scene, which was easily my favorite set piece in the film. Things continue to build to a head, with one disaster after another plaguing Jim and his buddies as the wedding date approaches. Will they manage to overcome their obstacles and make sure Jim’s wedding goes off without a hitch? I know, but I’m not telling!
I must tell you that I am a devotee of the first two films in the American Pie franchise, as the films were more “real” than most teen comedies. Most of the events that transpire in these films could really happen, and these characters could be friends that we had in high school. Still, several of these characters were really not that funny by the end of the second film. As such, when I read that the filmmakers were eliminating some of the characters from the first two slices of Pie, I was actually glad, because those characters/actors were the weakest links in the series (in my opinion, of course). In my view, the extra screen time for Finch, Stifler, Kevin, Jim, and Michelle was a good thing, especially once Stifler became less annoying as the film went along.
Now, I suppose you want to know if the comedy in American Wedding is on par with the first two entries in the franchise. Well, my answer to that is a resounding yes, although the film does have a few hiccups. Adam Herz (screenwriter) has realized that Steve Stifler has become the anchor of this series, and he does his best to make the character as abrasive and obnoxious as ever, however, for the first twenty minutes or so, his antics are almost too much. Really, Stifler is present almost continuously in American Wedding, and although I really enjoyed this character immensely in the previous films, Mr. Herz has amplified Stifler’s crudeness and vulgarity level to the point of near annoyance for the first third of the film.
Don’t get me wrong, I can spew out four-letter words as well as anyone, but in American Wedding almost every word Stifler speaks early on is an obscenity, and most of it is delivered with less charm and pizzazz than in the previous films. Over the trilogy, Stifler has evolved from an amusing caricature into a nigh-complete prick, and since so much of American Wedding revolves around this character, this film was a little more challenging to watch than its predecessors during its first third. Specifically, although the departure of some of the characters featured in the first two Pie films means more screen time for those that remain, I think the overdose of Stifler during the early part of the film knocks it down a notch.
With regard to American Wedding’s performances, by now, the actors are all quite familiar with their respective characters, and their portrayals exhibit a high level of confidence and comfort. Jason Biggs proves to be a capable leading man, and displays impeccable comic timing, making Jim as likeable as he is inept. Similarly, Alyson Hannigan is irresistibly sweet and endearing as Michelle, the one time “flute-toting band geek” with a seriously naughty side. More importantly, since their characters are to marry, their chemistry is remarkable, and they play off of each other very well.
I probably don’t need to point this out, but Eugene Levy is a very gifted comedian! Even though he had many memorable scenes in the first two films, his turn as Jim’s dad is even funnier this time around. Further, mainstays Eddie Kaye Thomas and Thomas Ian Nicholas are not only as likable as they were in the other movies, but they also add a little stability to the chaos generated by both the wedding preparations and Stifler. And, in a role expanded to account for his soaring popularity, Seann William Scott's Steve Stifler is as profane and crude as ever, although the story does endeavor to smooth out the character’s crude persona a little by the end.
One of the secrets to this franchise’s success has always been the likeability of its characters, and the fact most everyone knows someone exactly like one (or all, in my case) of them. Personally, I did not find “teen comedies” such as Tomcats, or Saving Silverman to be especially entertaining because the characters were not people I could relate to, or care about. This series is different, in that I have enjoyed every minute I have spent with the crew from Great Falls. Even though some of the franchise’s familiar faces are no longer around, I am glad that the cast of American Wedding brought enough to the table to help the series end on a very positive note.
In the final analysis, American Wedding lacks the overall intelligence and sensitivity that the Weitz brothers brought to the first installment of American Pie, which surprised moviegoers with its heart, emotion, and a tenderness not often found in teen sex comedies. Pie 2 followed with far less sensitivity, but still contained enough well executed set pieces and the same ensemble of delightful characters to make things work. American Wedding followed suit, as despite a few quibbles I had with it, I managed to enjoy this film quite a bit. Let’s face it, these films are not meant to be over-analyzed or stand up as cinematic masterpieces! In my opinion, they are supposed to be fun ways to pass 90 minutes with characters that we can relate to. After a so-so first half-hour, this film really finds its rhythm and delivers energy, laughter, and elaborate visual gags in abundance. In my book, that means American Wedding accomplishes what it sets out to do.
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Universal presents American Wedding in anamorphic widescreen, in its native aspect ratio (2.35:1). Let’s start with the good news. Color rendering is very well done, with rich earth tones, cool blues and greens, and lustrous reds (though bright red bleeds a bit). Flesh tones and black level are also very good, as is shadow delineation.
Unfortunately, despite being very good in certain areas, this transfer is ultimately not what I had hoped for. To be more precise, although the image is completely devoid of dust and other debris (which is to be expected from a newer production), there are spots where the picture is very soft, which obscures detail to a degree. In addition, a few scenes have a rather dark appearance, and a small amount of edge enhancement appears to have been applied as well.
Overall, I am sad to say that the negatives outweigh the positives, and I remember the film looking quite a bit better in the theater. That is not to say American Wedding looks terrible, because it doesn’t, but in this day and age, when most new, big-budget films look great on DVD, this transfer didn’t quite do it for me.
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
Comedies do not usually feature busy, dynamic soundtracks, and in this regard, American Wedding’s Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix is true to form. Still, while there is not much in the way of discrete surround channel usage, the rear channels do fill in the listening space nicely whenever a pop-rock track is playing (which is quite often). More importantly, dialogue is clear and anomaly-free, and appropriately rooted in the center channel throughout the feature.
The Dolby Digital soundstage is also wide and spacious, which allows the sourced music used throughout the film to come across clearly, with tangible instrument separation. Finally, although low bass is not quite as impactful as it could be, but still provides some nice punch to the sourced music, especially during Stifler’s dance-off sequence in the nightclub.
Feature Length Commentaries:
There are two feature length commentaries included: the first features director Jesse Dylan and actor Seann William Scott. Though mildly amusing, this track is not very insightful at all, except the pair point out that Seann is not a very good dancer. Mostly, the two discuss trivial details and there are quite a few periods of extended silence.
The second commentary features actors Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Thomas Ian Nicholas, and Eddie Kaye Thomas. This commentary track is a lot more enjoyable than the first one, though it is still nothing special, as there is not too much more insight into the film provided. Again, there are long periods of silence, and more than once the actors comment that they haven’t seen the film in its final version, so they sometimes seem to be more interested in watching the film than talking. Still, these four clown around enough, and point out enough dropped subplots, to make this worth a listen.
All in all, these commentaries were a bit disappointing. I wasn’t necessarily looking for discussions packed with mind-blowing detail into the creation of the film, just a little more fun, especially considering the participants and the spirit of the series.
A full 22-minutes of deleted/extended scenes is provided, including commentary by writer Adam Herz or actor Sean William Scott. Some of these scenes were wisely removed from the film, others were quite funny, and the rest are just gross. One thing that I did note from Adam Herz’s commentary is just how “involved” the studio seemed to be in the creation of this film! I don’t want to give away too many details, but here are titles for the twelve deleted or extended scenes:
--- “The Ring”
--- “Two Weeks”
--- “Extended Montage”
--- “Proud Grandma”
--- “Men Are Pigs”
--- “Head Table”
--- “Grandma Dances With Stifler”
--- “Extended Blow-Up Doll”
--- “Grandma In The Closet”
The American Wedding outtakes are essentially 6-minutes of silliness; featuring a great many line flubs, or the cast just clowning around.
Inside the Dominatrix
The 10-minute “Inside the Dominatrix” featurette provides an in-depth look at the process of creating and filming the raucous bachelor party sequence. Interestingly, the filmmakers reveal that this scene was not fully scripted. Instead, it was born out of short ideas that were fleshed out via improvisation. In addition to interviews with the cast and crew, there are plenty of outtakes from the bachelor party sequence provided, which features a fair amount of gratuitous nudity (what a shame ).
This 7–minute featurette provides insight into the character Steve Stifler, via an interview with Seann William Scott, behind-the-scenes footage, and even an excerpt from Seann’s first casting tape. Specifically, Mr. Scott reveals that since this was his last (?) turn as Stifler, he wanted to make him “clearly insane”. There is also an interesting look at how most of Stifler’s dialogue was improvised to give it a more spontaneous feel.
Grooming the Groom
In this featurette, the filmmakers discuss the myriad of departments that had to come together to create the sequence where Jim gives himself a “special haircut”. Sadly, a mind-boggling number of wigs were sacrificed to bring this concept off of the page and onto the screen.
Cheesy Wedding Video
The “Cheesy Wedding Video” is a three-minute montage of scenes from American Wedding that is assembled in classic wedding video style.
Kevin Cam: A Day In The Life Of An Actor
This brief extra features actor Thomas Ian Nicholas (Kevin) giving us a glimpse of his typical day on the set of American Wedding. During a tour of his trailer, Thomas reveals that he is also dabbling in music, and even takes a second to pick up an acoustic guitar and play one of his compositions.
Nikki’s Hollywood Journal
I could be wrong, but I think a lot of people will find this featurette superfluous. I, on the other hand, found it to be a fascinating and intimate look at how this actress prepared for her night on the red carpet. Nikki’s journal begins at about 7:00 a.m., with Nikki going to the gym, and then she takes us along with her to the dermatologist, clothes shopping, to the Four Seasons hotel for hair/make-up, and then to the world premiere of American Wedding. I am not saying that this “Journal” is the most exciting featurette ever, but viewed in the proper context, it is a lot more honest and interesting than the usual promotional material crammed onto DVDs because it shows the lengths that celebrities will go to in preparation for a film’s premiere.
Upon starting the disc up, there are “forced” trailers (which can be fast forwarded through) for The Rundown, Johnny English, and Bring It On Again.
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
It goes without saying that comedy is a subjective art form. What one person finds hilarious another may find incredibly boring and unfunny. In my opinion, American Wedding is a franchise entry that is quite a bit better than its immediate predecessor, although it falls short of re-creating the surprising sweetness of the first film. However, in order to appreciate what this film has to offer, you might need a high tolerance for the juvenile comedic escapades and lewd activities of a group of twenty-something males. If you couldn't stomach the first and second helpings of American Pie, then this movie probably is not for you. However, if you have an interest in comedies that make Porky’s look tame, then it is highly likely that you will enjoy American Wedding.
In terms of presentation, American Wedding features a pretty good audio track that is bolstered by a healthy dose of modern rock hits. Unfortunately, the one problem area is the most important for me: the transfer. It doesn’t look terrible, but the unusual amount of softness and somewhat dark appearance were quite distracting during several of the film’s sequences. However, if you were to ask me if the worse than expected video quality would preclude me from purchasing this title, the answer is hell no! Still, I was somewhat disappointed, since Universal is usually (notice I said usually!!!) on the money when it comes to the visuals for their “bigger” releases.
Fortunately, there are also literally hours of extras for fans to peruse, featuring everything from insight into how the film was created to days in the lives of selected stars, to even more gratuitous footage of beautiful topless women ! Some of the stuff is funny, and some is not, but you definitely will not feel cheated if you buy this disc. Oh, as I mentioned earlier, the inclusion of the theatrical cut of the film is a nice touch! I would have been quite comfortable giving this release my strongest recommendation, if only it had a better transfer. As it is I will stick with a simple recommendation, especially if you can pick it up for less than an Andrew Jackson!
January 2nd, 2004