American Pie Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1999

What does sex feel like?
Warm apple pie!
Warm apple pie?
McDonalds or home-baked?
The cast of American Pie

Besides "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut" and "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me", "American Pie" has been identified as one of the most highly anticipated films of the post-"Menace" summer movie-going season. And while this latest entry into the teen comedy genre is certainly successful in pushing the envelope of good taste, it is neither as humorous or engaging as the hype would lead you to believe.

"American Pie" is your prototypical 'get laid by prom night' teenage sex comedy, following the sexual misadventures of some well-scrubbed high-schoolers. In this case, the story focuses on the lackluster efforts of four hapless virgins who are determined to have sex before graduating from high school. Jim (Jason Biggs) the film's primary focus, is a clumsy guy who manages to mess up every opportunity to hook up with a member of the opposite sex, in addition to being caught in a series of compromising situations by his father (SCTV alumnus Eugene Levy). Oz (Chris Klein of "Election") is your archetypal 'dumb jock' who tries to score with Heather (Mena Suvari), a member of the school's choir. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) does have a steady girlfriend, Vicky (Tara Reid of "Urban Legend"), but he seems perennially doomed to remain at third base. Finally, Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is the quiet yet refined one-- only problem is that he is so anal that he refuses to use the washrooms at school.

Unlike the sugar-coated fairy tale teen comedies of recent memory ("She's All That" and "Never Been Kissed" come to mind), "American Pie" gets 'down and dirty' from its opening moments, in which Jim is literally caught with his pants down in a scene involving some scrambled television channels and a tube sock. With a number of gross-out comedic sequences and frank discussions on the how's and what's of sex, this film appeals to the lowest common denominator with unmatched brazenness, even more so than last year's "There's Something About Mary". The 'beer scene'... the 'apple pie scene'... the extracurricular activities of a school band geek (Alyson Hannigan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer")... the foreign exchange student on the Internet... the laxative in the coffee... "American Pie" certainly delivers the goods when it comes to supplying enough lewd material to keep the kids talking for the rest of the summer.

We'll just tell mom that we at it all...

Unfortunately, besides its unbridled raunchiness, the film has little else to offer. Though there were a few memorable scenes scattered throughout, such as the 'sex talks' between Jim and his dad, on the whole, "American Pie" was not particularly funny. Yes, there were some moments where you would maybe smile and let off a small chuckle, but the laughs were rarely laugh-out-loud hilarious. Sex jokes and toilet humor can be hilarious, but they must be placed in the right context in order to be successful. Believe it or not, 'gross' does not always translate into 'funny'.

"There's Something About Mary" was successful because it had an element of romantic intrigue and some well-constructed gags. "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut" also worked due to its subversively satirical swipes at American societal mores. And "Election" successfully recontextualized the political process in terms of a school election campaign. With "American Pie", if one strips out the scatological humor, what remains is little more than a cliché-infested teenage sex-quest with mildly interesting characters and predictable plotting.

Since the beginning of this year, "American Pie" has been hyped as the 'next big thing', a film that would forever change the teen comedy genre. In reality, it is little more than a 97-minute parade of raunchy scenes, some funny and many not-so-funny, strung together by a threadbare plot and some stock characterizations. If you're the type that's easily amused by gratuitous sex, nudity, and profanity, "American Pie" certainly delivers the goods in abundance. On the other hand, if you are looking for laughs, or at least humor with half a brain, it is doubtful that "American Pie" will satisfy.

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures. All rights reserved.


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