American Pie Review

by Michael Dequina (twotrey AT juno DOT com)
July 9th, 1999

_American_Pie_ (R) *** (out of ****)

If you see the trailer for _American_Pie_ in the theatre, temporarily leave the auditorium. If you see the commercial on TV, change the channel. This raucous teen sex comedy's most powerful weapon is the element of surprise--a tactic that, based on their full disclosure marketing campaign, Universal seems intent on ruining.

But even if you have already caught a glimpse of an ad or two, there are still a good amount of big, unexpected laughs in this unapologetically raunchy romp from screenwriter Adam Herz and director Paul Weitz, both making their debuts in their respective fields. What isn't so unexpected, however, is the thinness of the premise. Four seniors (Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, and Eddie Kaye Thomas) vow to be virgins no more after prom night. C'est tout.

It's not like anyone buying a ticket to _American_Pie_ is looking for plot innovation; they are looking to laugh, and indeed they will. Along the way, though, viewers will be meet a variety of keenly defined characters--an uncommon occurrence in this era of _Can't_Hardly_Wait_s and _She's_All_That_s. The focal guy is Jim, a nice, if bashful and hopelessly desperate (as evidenced in the infamous scene that lends the film its title) guy made very sympathetic by Biggs, who is like a younger and much more likable David Schwimmer. Thomas's mochachino-drinking Finch is given the last amount of screen time of the four, but, like the even more peripheral players, such as sex advice-dispensing Jessica (Natasha Lyonne) and gabby geek Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), he carves out a memorable niche.

The same goes for Oz (Klein), the jock who turns over a sensitive new leaf en route to the big score; and Kevin (Nicholas), who is anxious to go all the way with his girlfriend Vicky (Tara Reid). But their respective plot threads eventually point up to _American_Pie_'s shortcoming. Oz's newfound gentle side wins him the genuine affection of jazz ensemble singer Heather (Mena Suvari), and he finds himself feeling the same way; and issues of true love play a major role in the Kevin-Vicky relationship. Needless to say, these forays into more earnest territory don't quite gel amid the air of tawdriness.

Audiences will be too busy eating up the many hilariously inspired moments in _American_Pie_ to remember, let alone think, about any serious issues it misguidedly touches upon. That's the whole point of the exercise, anyway--having a good time, and audiences are certain to have a blast.

Michael Dequina
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