American Pie Review

by Akiva Gottlieb (akiva AT excite DOT com)
June 12th, 1999

American Pie **1/2

rated R
Universal Pictures
starring Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Sean William Scott, Tara Reid, Natasha Lyonne, Alyson Hannigan, Mena Suvari, Shannon Elizabeth, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, Chris Owen
written by Adam Herz
directed by Paul Weitz

If you've been to a movie theater in the past 2 or 3 months, chances are you've seen the hilarious, shocking trailer for "American Pie". And while the film is lewd and consistently hilarious, it's also derivative and largely unconvincing. "American Pie" is part Farrelly Brothers and part "Porky's", but at its core is yet another traditional high school comedy leading up to the prom. However, from the first scene, we know things are going to be a little bit different.

We first meet Jim(Jason Biggs) as he is masturbating to an illegal porn channel on his television set. His mom barges in and sternly says "I think you're trying to watch some illegal channels." His very frank father(Eugene Levy, who deserves some kind of award for his role here) then assures her that "It's only bad reception, honey."
After a party during which none of Jim's friends(all virgins) get laid, they decide to make a pact. They will all lose their virginity by the end of this, their senior, year. Kevin(Thomas Ian Nicholas, from "Rookie Of The Year") is going steady with his girlfriend, Vicky(Tara Reid), but she's decided to push away sex until Kevin tells her that he loves her. Oz(Chris Klein, who was so good in "Election") hasn't had much luck with girls(his main pick-up line is "Suck me, beautiful"), but he has just met Heather(Mena Suvari), a goody-two-shoes from his singing class whom he is starting to fall for. The geeky Finch(Eddie Kaye Thomas) has paid a girl(Natasha Lyonne of "Slums Of Beverly Hills") to start passing around tantalizing gossip about him. Jim's best chance is with a sexually promiscuous foreign exchange student named Nadia(Shannon Elizabeth), who is coming to his house to "study".

Right from the initial setup, the laughs keep coming, but sadly, so do the cliches. Because of all the fun, it's hard to care about the many holes in the plot, but writer Adam Herz feels the need to fill the gaps with things we've seen and heard too many times before. The misguided love story between Oz and Heather doesn't work, and a lot of the dialogue seems forced.

Many envelope-pushing scenes almost nabbed the "teen" film an NC-17 rating, but Universal seems to think that the film will have crossover appeal(not unlike last year's summer sleeper "There's Something About Mary"). Universal may have their fourth straight hit on their hands, following "Life", "The Mummy", and "Notting Hill". There's also the "South Park" movie and the Eddie Murphy-starring "Bowfinger" on their summer lineup.

Paul Weitz, making his directing debut here, shows some talent with his talented teenage ensemble cast. "American Pie" may be the first of the recent crop of teen movies to have a built in camp value. Although it may be hard to believe, "American Pie" reaches a level of raunchiness that "There's Something About Mary" or even "Happiness" never comes close to. Whether that's a good thing or not, I'm not sure.

It's hard for me to call "American Pie" a disappointment, since I had so much fun. It is a very flawed movie, but anyone who can take it will have a good time. I wouldn't be surprised if "American Pie" is the funniest movie to be released this summer.

Note: One of my favorite bands, Blink-182, makes an appearance in the film. Their new album, "Enema Of The State" is on sale now. Buy it, you won't be disappointed.

a review by Akiva Gottlieb, The Teenage Movie Critic
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