American Pie: The Wedding; <br></br>The Safety of Objects; <br></br>Angela; <br></br>Freddy vs Jason

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American Pie: The Wedding (15) is the second sequel to a scatological teen comedy about a boy who gets intimate with a fruit pastry, so I don't suppose I should take it too seriously. All the same, the original American Pie movie was so deftly structured that it should be used on screenwriting courses as a set text. It began with a party, where the four heroes pledged to lose their virginity before leaving school; the next hour saw the foursome in pursuit of sex; and the film was rounded off by another party, and the friends' understanding that love was more important. The framework was faultless. And, of course, within that pie crust there was some delicious filling, as Jim (Jason Biggs) was subjected to hilarious, genital-related embarrassment.

The gross-out set pieces in AP:TW still raise a chuckle, but they're less funny than the ones in the last American Pie film, which were, in turn, less funny than the ones in the film before that. The series' new director, Jesse "son of Bob" Dylan, is clumsier than his predecessors were, and, besides, Adam Herz, who wrote all three films, is running out of variations. There are only so many ways Jim can be caught in public with his pants down, only so many bodily excretions his sociopathic antagonist Stifler (Seann William Scott) can accidentally swallow.

Still, it's the absence of structure that's most disappointing. The movie starts with the pie-abusing Jim getting engaged to the flute-abusing Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), and it finishes with their getting married. But in between there's none of the first film's men-on-a-mission momentum, just some plot cul-de-sacs concerning Jim's dancing lessons, and whether a particular Chicago boutique will make the dress. It doesn't do the first movie justice. Rent Meet The Parents, picture all the characters as a decade younger, and you'll be watching the film American Pie: The Wedding wishes it was.

The Safety of Objects (15) is a safer version of Robert Altman's Short Cuts. Like that film, it interweaves a set of domestic short stories - written, in this case, by AM Homes - and it reminds us yet again that behind the picket fences of suburbia, seemingly sheltered families are just one wrong turn away from calamity.

Written and directed by Rose Troche (Go Fish), the film is watchable, skilfully made and well acted, by Glenn Close among others, and it hits the mark whenever it aims at comedy. But next to Short Cuts and Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, it's glib and obvious, with a tendency to spell out its soft-centred message in its dialogue and voice-overs. After Dermot Mulroney walks out of his law job, he sits on a train beside some graffiti that reads, "Why is a man nothing without a purpose?" It could be a think bubble in a comic strip.

Angela (15) is based on the true story of a mafia boss's wife in Palermo. Posing as a shoe-shopkeeper, she's content to run drugs for her husband until his handsome new protégé awakens her to the possibility of a different life. Much of Roberta Torre's film is shot like a fly-on-the-wall documentary, but she underplays the drama so much that there's hardly any of it left. Angela's lover is nothing more than a clichéd Latin Lothario, and we never know how Angela feels about him, her husband or her life of crime.

The affair seems less like tragic love than an office fling.

Freddy vs Jason (18) brings us the clash of two unkillable film fiends, Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare On Elm Street movies and Jason Voorhees from the Friday The 13th franchise. Naturally, it's a huge, tottering mountain of tripe. But what's riveting, and ultimately rather sad about it, is that it isn't a cheap potboiler like, for instance, Hallowe'en Resurrection. Time and talent have been invested in it. The director, Hong Kong's Ronny Yu, includes some unusually stylish imagery, the writing is deliberately loopy, and by the time the serial killers from beyond the grave have their concluding face-off, Freddy vs Jason - or is it Jason vs Freddy? - has the cartoon zaniness of Tim Burton's Beetlejuice. What a shame so much rollicking creativity was expended on such absolute claptrap.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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