The American Pie flicks aren’t the classiest or smartest comedies there are but, once you get past all the gross-out humor and sex talk, what strikes you is how sweet they actually are. A boy and a girl singing some Marvin Gaye to each other, a pastryphile growing to care about a flute-toting band geek, guys who pick on each other but who do care about the friendship they share… This isn’t on the level of John Hughes’ ‘80s high school movies, but this franchise is pretty much the cream of the crop of late ‘90s teenxploitation. The young actors have chemistry together and you have to appreciate how the filmmakers had the good sense of also casting such comic geniuses as Eugene Levy as Jim’s dad and Jennifer Coolidge as Stifler’s mom, and now the conclusion of the epic trilogy takes the Chris-Guest-company thing one step further by giving the part of Michele’s dad to Fred Willard!

Some will lament that this is yet another unnecessary sequel, a cash-driven venture that doesn’t even reunite half of the original cast, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. No offense to Chris Klein and Mena Suvari , but their characters felt like dead weight by the second film, as did those played by Tara “I’ll suck your cock for 1000$” Reid and Shannon Elizabeth. Episode 3 sticks to the essentials: pie-fucker Jim (Jason Biggs) and band geek Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), who are about to get married, the ever hilariously inconsiderate Stifler (Seann William Scott) and man-about-town Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas). Actually, there is some dead weight in Thomas Ian Nicolas’ dull Kevin character, but thankfully he’s little more than an extra here.

The plot is by-the-numbers marriage movie stuff: the proposal, picking the dress, meeting the in-laws, the bachelor party and finally, the wedding itself. There are a few quirky flourishes like a gay bar ’80s pop dance-off (!!!) and a vaudeville sequence involving an East European maid, a dominatrix and a guy duct-taped to a chair, and there’s an amusing subplot in which Stifler and Finch compete for the attention of Cadence (January Jones), Michelle’s adorable younger sister. But for the most part, the film is coasting on our affection for these characters. The lowbrow gags are funny, but the whole gross-out thing has pretty much ran its course: there are only so many different bodily fluids you can play around. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Jesse Dylan’s direction is spectacularly uninspired and shows no sense of comic timing. Scenes run either too short or too long and while there are some laughs, they’re not as loud as they would have been in the hands of a less clueless filmmaker.

For a movie with “Wedding” in the title, the bride and groom share surprisingly little screen time, but when they do get together I must say it’s almost touching. We’ve grown to care about these dorks and loudmouths, and it’s nice to hang out some more with them even though this is inferior to the previous movies in the series.