American Pie Reviewby Bob Bloom (bloom AT journal-courier DOT com)
July 9th, 1999
American Pie (1999) 3 stars out of 4. Starring Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Eugene Levy, Mena Survari, Tara Reid, Natasha Lyonne and Alyson Hannigan.
In the telling, American Pie may sound like a semi-gross adolescent sex comedy.
In truth, though, it is a rather engaging and likable feature film that at times nudges the gangplank of bad taste without diving overboard.
The story is simple: Four high school seniors all virgins make a pact to lose their virginity by the time of the senior prom.
The quartet are basically all types: Jim (Jason Biggs) is the nerdy guy; Oz (Chris Klein) is the jock; Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is the smooth one who already has a girlfriend; and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is the brain.
Enough hormones are raging among these four to generate the heat needed to evaporate the Great Lakes.
The pleasure of American Pie is that despite it being a comedy, it convincingly covers the angst and awkwardness most young men experience when trying to connect with the young females of the species.
It's all here: the false bravado, the exaggerations concerning size and prowess, the lies about previous trysts. The boys all set out to find dates/potential partners for prom night.
Jim's plans go awry when the Romanian exchange student who shows interest in him is deported. This sequence, the funniest in the movie, involves some graphic magazines, the Internet and a most appreciative audience of peers and classmates.
Oz joins an a cappella jazz ensemble where he meets Heather (an ethereal Mena Suvari), who begins to transform him into a caring and sensitive all-around person.
Finch hires a classmate to begin spreading rumors about him, while Kevin uses "the Bible" to learn how to please his girlfriend, Vicky (Tara Reid), and prepare them for the perfect night in which they will finally consummate their romance.
Credit for American Pie should go to screenwriter Adam Herz. In his initial screenplay, Herz shows a definite ear for the rhythms, mores and attitudes of contemporary high school students.
The one area in which he falls short is the privacy issue. No one locks their doors. Show me one teen who hasn't installed a dead bolt or trained a watch dog to keep intruders out of his or her room.
Director Paul Weitz keeps the film moving at a brisk pace. And while not every sequence pays off, there are no dead spaces. Even the throwaway scenes involving Jim and his dad, a funny, trying-to-be-hip Eugene Levy, are witty and a bit touching.
American Pie is a fine ensemble comedy. The entire cast deserves high marks: Klein, who played a similar character earlier this year in Election, is touching; Biggs, as the sympathetic Jim, is klutzy, but endearing; Nicholas shows a vulnerability and an awakening self-awareness; while Thomas is a bit cynical, yet as wanting as the others.
Also worth noting are the contributions of Natasha Lyonne as the frank-speaking Jessica, Vicky's best friend; and Alyson Hannigan as Michelle, the band-geek from hell who surprises the pants off Jim.
Since this is a teen comedy, American Pie does have some raunchy moments, but overall it is a warm, pleasant outing about the travails of growing up. It's fun and a bit wise, but without being preachy.
Bob Bloom is the film critic at the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, IN. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or at [email protected]
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