American Pie Reviewby Jamey Hughton (bhughton AT sk DOT sympatico DOT ca)
August 5th, 1999
***1/2 (out of five stars)
A review by Jamey Hughton
Starring-Jason Biggs, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Chris Klein, Eddie Kaye Thomas,
Tara Reid, Natasha Lyonne and Eugene Levy
Released July 1999
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All those who were offended by There’s Something About Mary should not tread in the waters of American Pie, a gratuitously sexual rollercoaster ride of raunch. And while this uproariously funny, gross-out summer movie is basically an exercise in bad taste, it also demonstrates a surprising sweetness in the end.
American Pie is the latest entry to the offensive teenage-targeted fare this season. I must question the studio that releases a movie like this. The producers are aiming these films at the 15-24 crowd, but while pushing the limit of possible sex and violence in an R-rated film. Some have even been narrowly avoiding the dreaded NC-17, a rating the MPAA gives when the adult content surpasses even that of a Restricted movie. American Pie was threatened with an NC-17, but after snipping a few scenes from the finished product, it was given an R. But at least this new addition is not as careless and unforgiving as something like South Park. It is sick, perverse, and ultimately disgusting - not to mention extremely funny.
American Pie is about four desperate teenagers who make a pact to lose their virginity by prom night. Jim (Jason Biggs), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Oz (Chris Klein) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) are a quartet of high school students in their senior year who think sex is something they must experience to be successful in their lives ahead. Jim inquires what it feels like when you reach third base, to which one of his friends replies: “Like warm apple pie...”. Of course, this prompts the scene unfairly exposed in the trailers, in which Jim and a freshly baked pie have a very intimate moment in the kitchen corner. There are many moments, such as this, in which director Paul Weitz uses a game-plan similar to the one frequently displayed in Mary: to cause the audience to break down laughing in disgusting disbelief. American Pie is a hard-fought effort that has replenishing rewards if you manage to stick with it.
I loved the young cast in this movie. Consider the subject matter that these actors have dealt with, obviously suggestiveness never rivaled in any of their previous projects, and you should appreciate their performances. Biggs is more than enjoyable, and Chris Klein (who recently played a similar jock in Election) is obviously a young talent on the rise. But in a teen-dominated movie, the best performance comes from comedian Eugene Levy (of television’s SCTV), who is unexpectedly brilliant as Jim’s uneasy father. Scenes in which the familiar father-son conversations are brought to interesting new levels are the funniest moments to be found in American Pie. After Levy discovers Jim’s new use for apple pie, he tells him, “I did a fare share of that sort of thing when I was your age. But I never used baked goods.” It is performances such as his, and Bill Murray’s in Rushmore, that are often unfairly dismissed when awards are handed out.
There are some less-than-original aspects of the film. A bathroom incident involving Finch and a bottle of Ex-Lax is something we’ve seen before. If Weitz is planning to take after the Farrelly brothers, then this is a decidedly unwise move: the same prank was pulled in the brother’s Dumb and Dumber, and used to greater effect. Secondly, the characters are forced into a half-hearted climax that seems more artificial than amusing. But at one point, in which we discover that American Pie does have a heart of it’s own, Biggs asks his buddies why he’s going through so much pressure for something that’s “not very important anyway.” And so we realize that while the film is expressive about a subject that is hardly appropriate, it still manages to be mature. In it’s own way.
(C) 1999, Jamey Hughton
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