American Pie Review

by "Jon Ridge" (jonridge AT earthlink DOT net)
July 16th, 1999

" American Pie " * * * 1/2

    In trying to give proper praise to AMERICAN PIE, the drop-dead funniest film of 1999, I compare it to other recent teen comedies, like CANıT HARDLY WAIT and SHEıS ALL THAT. Movies which have zero ambition, go for the cheap, easy laugh and nothing more, and dare not delve into the intricacies of what adolescent sexual confusion might actually entail. Movies concerned with plot contrivance (will the geeky guy get the prom queen; will the girl be able to figure out a devious bet against her, in time to fall in love), and nothing that has to do with real life.
    AMERICAN PIE puts them right in their place, with honesty and unparalleled situational humor - embarrassing and rude as it may be. Simply put, this movie rocks. Not about anything in particular, PIE focuses on a group of high school guys who, three weeks before graduation, vow to lose their virginity as of prom night, out of dignity if nothing else; because, "Itıs tradition. Like the Rose Bowl." Oz (or Nova, played by a marvelous Chris Klein) starts off the cliché misogynist pig jock, but then joins the school choir, in hopes of wooing the pretty Heather (Mena Suvari), only to realize his sensitive side. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) already has a girlfriend, Vicky (the sexy Tara Reid), but sheıs holding out for just the right time to consummate their relationship; "Itıs not a Space Shuttle launch. Itıs sex"Š love that line. Jim (a break-through Jason Biggs) has a slight crush on foreign exchange student Nadia, but faces more complicated issues with masturbation, mainly on the homefront, to wonderful comic result; the uncomfortable discussions with his father (a sly Eugene Levy), about the birds and bees, are perfect gems of comic timing.
    Will they succeed in getting laid? No matter. What makes AMERICAN PIE great is its intrinsic sweetness. Even the narrow-minded Stifler (Seann W. Scott), who accidentally drinks "pale ale", has a core of innocence ­ albeit, buried far beneath an abrasive exterior. Perverted and lewd, at times, the film remains not mean or bitter in the least. You want these guys and girls to find happiness, or as much as one can reasonably expect to find at that age. Every character is thoroughly likeable, which is kind of rare in a film like this. I think, again, back to CANıT HARDLY WAIT, from earlier this year, in which just about every one of the characters was immature and selfish, and compare it to AMERICAN PIE, full of real and genuine people experiencing more truthful trials of growing up. There isnıt a comparison to be made, really.
    I like the way Kevin goes the distance to please Vicky, and their exploration of sexual satisfaction; you donıt see many teen comedies where both the male and female party concentrates respective attention on the otherıs personal gratification.
I also found Ozıs slow progression into true romantic kind of endearing. And, not to be overlooked, is the filmıs overt raunch. I laughed my ass off during Fincheıs (Eddie Kay Thomas) bout with uncontrollable diarrhea in the girlıs bathroom. Jim copulating with the titular centerpiece comes in a close second. And, I especially love Alyson Hanniganıs (doing her Willow bit) band dork, who gets the two biggest guffaws during the concluding post-prom party. The film originally garnered an NC-17 rating for its full-bore graphic content, but all that does is minimize the heart of AMERICAN PIE - a true-blue coming of age tale. The script, by Adam Herz, is audacious and perceptive, while at the same time smart and sophisticated and surprisingly gentle. The actors are amicable and seem to be having a good time.
    If the movie falters, itıs by ending on such a feel-good note. By then, it makes no real difference, however, as AMERICAN PIE has proved itself a raucous hit. Go!

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