American Pie Reviewby Chad Polenz (ChadPolenz AT aol DOT com)
August 2nd, 1999
Chad'z rating: ***1/2 (out of 4 = very good)
1999, R, 100 minutes [1 hour, 40 minutes]
Starring: Jason Biggs (Jim), Chris Klien (Oz), Thomas Ian Nicholas (Kevin), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Finch); written by Adam Herz; produced by Chris Moore, Craig Perry, Chris Weitz, Warren Zide; directed by Paul Weitz.
Seen July 15, 1999 at 7:50 p.m. at Crossgates Cinema 18 (Guilderland, NY), theater #14, by myself for free using my Hoyts season pass. [Theater rating: ***: good sound, picture and seats]
Dammit. It’s been over two weeks since I saw “American Pie” (and almost a month since it was actually released) and I’m just now sitting down to write this review. In “filmcriticworld” - to let a review go a fews days later than the date the film was released is an eternity.
Anyway, I’d been thinking long and hard about how to review this film and it became clear to me after a while that it would be a difficult review to write. If you’ve been following my reviews this summer you’ll notice I’ve been experimenting with style and I guess this would be another good test case.
So, I dedicate this review to one of my best friends, Matt Perreault, who I’ve known since sixth grade and have been able to talk to and relate to on just about any and all subject matters. The problem is the guy is 200 miles away in Boston and I haven’t seen or talked to him in a while despite repeated phone calls and e-mails. Maybe this review - a hypothetical conversation Matt and I might have about this film - will get him to
CHAD: What’s up?
MATT: Nothing. What’re you doing?
C: I’m trying to figure out how to write my review of “American Pie.”
M: I didn’t see it, is it good? What’s it about?
C: Yeah, it’s really good. It’s got like everything in it. It’s like raunchy in some parts and sweet in others and throughout the whole thing you get that feeling that the dudes that made the movie grew up on the same movies and TV shows that we liked. I sensed a strong John Hughes inspiration here because they show teenage kids for what they really are and what they really act like. They’re not just a bunch of sex-crazed maniacs.
M: That’s what the commercials and the previews make it look like. They make it look like some kind of “Porky’s” or something for the ‘90s.
C: Well, actually, there is that kind of sleazy feeling during some parts. Some of it looks like they’re making the movie purposely for horny teenage boys cuz of all the sexual innuedo, but it’s like, REALISTIC sexual innuedo. The guys in this movie - they’re actually realistic teenagers. I mean, they’re all in their senior year and they make a pact to lose their virginity by graduation. That’s pretty original right there because I think Hollywood assumes all kids lose their viriginity at like age 14 or something. It actually acknowledges the fact that, hey, it’s pretty fricking hard to get sex when you’re a kid. But the actual plot is about them trying to keep this pact and like encourage the other guy and by the end when it doesn’t look like they’re going to keep the pact they all start to blame each other for not keeping the pact.
M: Sounds like that “Seinfeld” where Jerry and George made a pact to get married and then George got pissed that Jerry reneged on it.
C: Yeah it’s kinda like that. There’s some other subtle Seinfeldian things going on here, but it’s more geared towards teens so it doesn’t try to be too super highbrow comedy about little things. I mean, it’s a sex comedy.
M: Yeah. So what’s the plot about?
C: Well it’s mostly about this kid Jim (Biggs) who’s in this clique that’s not at the highest social rung on the high school clique ladder, but it’s pretty high up. Jim’s kind of a quiet, sorta goofy guy. He’s a lot like one of those characters you’d see on a sitcom, especially like something on one of those ABC TGIF shows or something... only in an R-rated movie.
C: Anyway, so Jim has three best friends: Kevin (Nicholas), Oz (Klein) and Finch (Thomas) who also fit that kind of sitcom-esque, sorta-cliche/sorta-real kind of personality. Like Kevin is the sensitive guy in a long-term relationship with this hot chick named Vickie (Tara Reid, who’s a helluva lot different than the chick she played in “The Big Lebowski”). He keeps thinking they’re gonna do it because they’ve been going out for a few months and it’s just like the law of dating ya know? Him and Oz make fun of Jim because he’s never been to third base and that’s where that pie joke comes from (and the title of the movie). There’s a good joke when they tell him that and he says “McDonald’s or homemade?”
C: And that Finch guy is like this really dorky guy who’s just kind of friends with these other guys. He’s like if Niles Crane (from TV’s “Frasier”) was a kid in the ‘90s. He drinks mocha chino at school and he refuses to use the school’s bathrooms (oh they exploit that for a Faralley-brothers type gag that’s really funny even though you’re totally grossed out and winching the whole time). After they all make the pact he suddenly gets this reputation for being like a total stud and that he has like, uh.. ya know... like... a big schlong.
M: How does that happen?
C: Well, that’s one of the movie’s many surprises. It’s better to find out for yourself.
M: So what happens, is it like they all try to seduce chicks or something? C: Sort of. I mean, Kevin already has a girlfriend to work on and Oz, who’s like a total jock and sort of a mimbo, a lot like the character Chris Klien played in “Election,” well he decides to fake being really sensitive and he joins a singing group to try to start with a clean slate so the girls there won’t know what he’s really like. And then it turns out that he’s not just faking being sensitive and sweet and stuff, he actually is. There’s this really good subplot where he meets this cute blonde girl who you think he’s going to just seduce and use and all that, but they end up being a really good couple. They have a few fights but they have some good talks and stuff too. That’s kind of where you notice the John Hughes-type themes and dialogue going on.
M: Yeah whatever happened to John Hughes? He should make more movies like “Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller” again. All he does now is like these gay Disney kids’ movies.
C: Yeah I know. But anyway I’m getting off track. So a lot of the movie is about the four guys and their quests to do it. But a lot of stuff happens along the way. Like there’s a few scenes where Jim’s dad keeps coming in and talking to him about sex and masturbation and stuff. It’s really funny because the dad just says it so non-chalently and you can tell it’s an uncomfortable subject for him. He’s like “Jim, I want to talk about masturbation... It’s like banging a tennis ball against a brick wall - which can be fun, but it’s not a game. What you want is a partner to return the ball. Do you want a partner Jim?”
M: <laughs> I can’t imaging having a conversation with my dad like that. Is there any cheesy subplots going on, like does someone get knocked up or get AIDS or something ?
C: No, but I think they should have delt with those issues. But then again, this is a mainstream comedy movie so they’re going to get realistic and stuff. I mean, that’s what the afterschool specials are for. Still, they do take it pretty seriously. There’s this one conversation Vickie has with her friend and she asks if it hurts. I can’t remember any movie where a girl even remotely hinted at the possibility that sex might not be completely pleasurable ya know? I talked to a lot of girls and they say it does hurt the first few times. I can’t imagine THAT hurting.
M: So is the whole movie about sex?
C: I wouldn’t say it like that. It’s more like an honest coming-of-age story of kids in the ‘90s and what they think about sex. It’s more about the hope of getting it than the act itself. There’s a lot of taboo stuff going on during it all too, like this secret book that Kevin’s brother tells him about which says how to give a girl oral sex where they actually enjoy it. There’s a funny scene with that in which the chick screams out “I’m coming” and she doesn’t mean for supper!
M: <laughs> That IS pretty raunchy, but that sounds really funny though. C: There’s a lot of other parts like that, that should be offensive and stuff, but they just weren’t to me, like a beer cup full of semen and this part where this madd hot chick gets naked in Jim’s bedroom and... well.. it’s like almost porn at one point, but it’s really funny. I saw it with some girls and I was totally surprised they didn’t find that disgusting or offensive or anything.
M: So, it sounds like you’re saying it’s like a guy’s comedy that girls will like too. And you’re sure it doesn’t get too sappy or corny or anything? I mean, it’s gotta have some cheesiness if it’s going to get girls to like it. C: Yeah sorta. There’s no one specific aspect I’d say is like that, but it’s there. But it didn’t bother me. I laughed a helluva lot and it’s just a really good and a witty script and it’s easy to relate to and everything. (8/1/99)
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