American Pie Reviewby "David N. Butterworth" (dnb AT dca DOT net)
July 13th, 1999
A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 1999 David N. Butterworth
**1/2 (out of ****)
"American Pie" does for deep dish baked goods what "There's Something About Mary" did for styling gel.
Ever since Cameron Diaz first put *that* stuff in her hair, filmmakers have been trying to out-vulgar the Farrelly Brothers' runaway hit of last year. With its story of four high-school seniors forming a pact to lose their virginity before they graduate, "American Pie" screenwriter Adam Herz has devised a fertile proving ground for doing precisely that.
While it's not subtle (not that anyone could accuse the Farrellys of subtlety either), it sure is funny, and its fine young cast keeps the film humming along even if, as with "'Mary," the vulgarity is often way over the top.
The four high schoolers who form the core of this juvenile sex comedy aren't your typical teenage stereotypes. In fact, they're all pretty normal, right down to the burning desire to cross that line into manhood.
Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) has the advantage over his three friends in so much as he actually has a girlfriend. And he's even made it to third base with her which, he tells his friend Jim (Jason Biggs, with a 'macadam geek cut), is like warm apple pie. But Vicky (Tara Reid) is looking for the L-word (not to mention perfection) for her first time and Kev isn't quite ready for that. Vicky's girlfriend is played by Natasha Lyonne who, unfortunately, fails to live up to the promise she showed in "Slums of Beverly Hills." She simply follows Vicky around making off-color remarks.
Jim has an understanding father (played by Eugene Levy, the only "star" name in the picture) who tries to educate his son in the sexual reproduction arena, much to Jim's obvious embarrassment. Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is also girlfriend-less, perhaps because of his unusual habit of heading home from school every time he needs to use the bathroom. And Oz (Chris Klein), the sensitive one of the bunch, is an affable big lug of a lacrosse player (Klein played an affable big lug of a football player in "Election") who joins a singing group in order to stake his claim on an unsuspecting vocalist.
The "action" tends to center at the home of the loudest, most abrasive guy on campus, who throws the kind of wild parties at which most kids get drunk, get sick, get laid, and pass out. Stifler, expertly played by Seann William Scott, is a spot-on personification of the jock we've all had the misfortune to know at one point during our pubescent years, but it's Stifler's Mom (Jennifer Coolidge) who gets one of the film's biggest laughs.
Although director Paul Weitz has a real knack for conjuring up outrageous scenes (which include such props as a tube sock, the afore-mentioned lattice tart, the Internet, and everybody's favorite, a bottle of laxative), he's not quite as adept at pacing the scenes for maximum effect. Often the punch line is staring us right in the face for several minutes while Weitz waffles around with the set-up. Fortunately Herz makes up for Weitz's poor timing by cramming his script with enough raunch and risqué humor to sink a battleship.
"American Pie" has already knocked "Wild Wild West" off the top spot and word of mouth will assure it of a huge box office return. For all of its crudeness and lewdness, the film does provide something of a public service: it teaches us that sex is as wholesome, natural, and all-American as apple pie.
David N. Butterworth
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