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In an era where franchises that no one cares to see keep cranking out sequels that no one will ever watch, we’re stuck saying goodbye to something that has become somewhat of a welcome institution, if a slightly skewed one. The American Pie series has tread on some toes, and restarted the teen gross-out comedy genre, which on a nearly weekly basis foists upon us another horrid teen sex romp that doesn’t ever seem to know what it doesn’t have that the American Pie series so consistently does. In case the rest of you haven’t figured it out yet, it has heart. But through all of that, the memories have in their own way been grand, and in some sense I think I like this series more in retrospect than I did the first time I sat down to watch American Pie.

What started out as a one shot movie about teens hunting babes has turned into a three film series that in some strange way has grown up right along with us. American Wedding is the third in the series, and is without a doubt the weakest of the lot. As a way of saying goodbye though, well these folks have really got this thing figured out. Yes yes, this is a Pie flick, even if it doesn’t sport the name, so the film opens with a marriage proposal gone wrong, somehow twisted horribly into a very public display of oral sex. As usual, everything works out ok with a little help from Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy). Besides, by now Jim (Jason Biggs) really should be used to this type of public humiliation. There’s nothing new to see on those buttocks.

Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), the girl who isn’t necessarily the prettiest or the smartest or the sexiest woman in the room, yet is somehow still in her own way every man’s dream girl, accepts Jim’s proposal. This is punctuated by a beautiful moment that I think in its own way defines what this series has that others of its ilk do not. Unfortunately, from there things devolve into a rather haphazard grouping of scenes in which everyone somehow magically gets back together (minus Oz and all the girls) and they start planning a wedding without really ever letting us in on the little details. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) shows up and starts to make one of his sappy speeches, and is promptly told to shut up. I don’t think he says another word for the rest of the film. He becomes a Wedding doorstop who lurks around in the background while the more interesting characters of Stiffler (Seann William Scott) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) dance naked in the American Wedding spotlight at his expense.

Through all that terribly choppy editing and badly constructed storytelling, what stays true, despite some serious stumbles in this film, is heart. And it’s not in the form of some one shot tear jerker. This series has taken us down a developmental path and Wedding builds on that to take us places emotionally we couldn’t have gone without the previous two films. In particular, there’s one scene in which Michelle tells Jim’s Dad that Jim once told her his father had always been there for him. That moment, and the small silent ways in which emotions of love and sadness and pride play across all at once on Eugene Levy’s face… is priceless. Because of the memories these people have given me, because of the history behind them, because of how REAL these movies have been, even in their most insane gross-out hijinks, moments like this resonate with beautiful sincerity.

Ok, enough rambling, at some point the movie does kick into high gear and we end up at some weird hotel (which is never explained) to start the wedding. It’s funny and heartfelt and sick and twisted and well all the things you expect. The presentation is again, still choppy and I was seriously disappointed that someone with a better hand wasn’t planted in the director’s chair. Wedding director Jesse Dylan’s only previous work was helming How High, and it shows. But even he can’t screw up the great chemistry between this cast. They understand this material and even if he doesn’t, they know exactly what to do. With that and the help of a few great musical cues, things hold together well enough to make American Wedding a fitting and full-throttle funny way to say goodbye to an unexpected old friend.