Of the flood of gross-out Hollywood comedies produced in the wake of 1998's There's Something About Mary, one of the few that matched that film's winning combination audacious slapstick and heartwarming charm was 1999's American Pie. That tradition continued with its weeks-before-9/11 2001 sequel, and is held up one again by American Wedding, a sequel that successfully keeps up the formula of the previous films, despite the loss of much of the original cast.
"Wedding" finds Jim (Jason Biggs), who as a teenager in the first film had a memorable encounter with a surprisingly precosious band camp girl (and another with a pie), getting married to that girl, who four years later has blossomed into a beautiful woman (then and now played by Alyson Hannigan of "Buffy" fame). While the first film used the prom as its focal point and the second a late-summer party, the third picture points its events toward the wedding.
Several cast members whose flagging careers could've used a boost, including Chris Klein, Mena Suvari, Shannon Elizabeth, and Tara Reid, chose not to participate in Part 3, though they're not exactly missed; instead, the slack is picked up by Seann William Scott as party - boy Stifler, whose role is expanded from the first two films.
It's fitting that while the entire cast began the series as virtual unknowns, it's the cream that's risen to the top, as it's the best actors (Biggs, Hannigan, and Scott), with the best careers now, who thrive in the third film. It's hard to see what Reid, who (like Carmen Electra) is at this point more a professional Maxim/Stuff cover girl than an actress, could've added to the film.
Like the previous films, the best parts are elaborate setpieces meant to deliver sexually explicit payoffs. The best in 'Wedding' are an extended bachelor-party-gone-awry, including strippers and the bride's parents, as well as a bit at the beginning involving wedding cake and dogs.
There's nothing as memorable as the pie-sex sequence or Hannigan's famous "one time at band camp" line in the first movie, but it's entertaining nonetheless. The difference between the 'Pie' films and their countless imitators is that the 'Pie' movies have respect for their characters and allow that the audience will too- misanthropic knockoffs like "Tomcats" never understood this.
At the heart of the films has always been the relationship between Biggs and his father (Eugene Levy), the loving and understanding parent who forgives all of his son's crazy sexual shenanigans- its a tough balance for the film to pull off, but the filmmakers (led this time by director Jesse Dylan) due it better than ever this time.
Despite some gags that move beyond funny into pure gross-out-for-gross-out's sake, American Wedding is a mostly satisfying helping. With American Wedding purportedly the last 'Pie' film, does this mean the end of the heart-felt gross-out teen sex comedy? Let's hope not.