American Pie (1999)
by Steve Habrat
It has been years since I have visited Jim, Stifler, Oz, Kevin, Finch, Nadia, Jessica, Heather, Vicky, Jim’s Dad, and the rest of the American Pie gang. After digging out my copy of the DVD and re-watching the film, the first thing that struck me about it was how poorly it has aged since its release. The film reeks of the late 90s, all plaid shirts, baggy jeans, and pop punk. Even the picture itself looks faded and crude by today’s standard but maybe I am getting used to watching crystal clear Blu-ray. What hasn’t aged, however, is the content of American Pie, which is all about getting laid and partying with your friends. American Pie packs a plot that will continue to resonate with high school and college kids for years to come, an aspect that solidifies its place on the list of comedy classsics. Better than a good majority of teen comedies that chug beer in the name of all that is crass, American Pie is still a heartwarming film about living it up with your friends and making memories that will last a lifetime.
The plot of American Pie is pretty simple. Four high school friends, Jim (Played by Jason Biggs), Oz (Played by Chris Klein), Kevin (Played by Thomas Ian Nicholas), and Finch (Played by Eddie Kaye Thomas) vow to all loose their virginity by prom night. They are struck with fear that they will all go off to college as virgins and they do everything in their power to make sure that won’t happen. The boys set their sights on a handful of girls including foreign exchange student Nadia (Played by Shannon Elizabeth), affectionate Vicky (Played by Tara Reid), cool girl Jessica (Played by Natasha Lyonne), choir chick Heather (Played by Mena Suvari), and band geek Michelle (Played by Alyson Hannigan). Naturally, the boys find themselves in all sorts of awkward situations, mostly Jim, who is always experimenting with different ways to pleasure himself, and every time getting caught by his parents or embarrassing himself in front of the entire school. They are also always hanging out with the vulgar Steve Stifler (Played by Seann William Scott) and finding themselves the butt of his obnoxious jokes.
It is strange to look back at American Pie, which packed a supposedly up-and-coming cast, some that never really broke out into any other roles. A good majority of the acting, mostly from Chris Klein, is downright cringe inducing now. It is no shocker that he never really became an A-list actor or a household name, as every line of dialogue he speaks is forced and embellished. The two who really do standout are Seann William Scott’s Stifler, who delivers a handful of funnies and the perfectly awkward Biggs as Jim. American Pie is carried on the shoulders of Jim’s Dad (Played by Eugene Levy) always catching him in some off-the-wall situation that is beyond embarrassing, scenes that will leave you gasping and your jaw slamming against the floor. You’ll never forget the sequence where Jim makes love to an apple pie in the film’s most iconic sequence. His father’s baffled reaction is simply, “We’ll just tell your mother that…we ate it all.” You’ll be in tears if you’ve never seen the scene.
It does still shock me how much American Pie has aged in thirteen years. Many of the skinny jean viewers of today may laugh at the film’s overall look and the corny pop punk soundtrack of yesterday. I can hear them squealing behind their smartphones, tweeting “wtf were they thinking in the 90s! GAG!” Sorry kids, there is no Justin Bieber and Wiz Khalifa anywhere in this film. Yet as I said, there is still quite a bit to relate to in this film and that is what extends its reach and ups the letter grade here. Believe me when I say that you’ll find yourself smiling over the camaraderie found in American Pie, both on the male and female side. The film’s raunchy humor can certainly match the naughty humor of today’s raunch romps, matching Judd Apatow’s cinematic offerings that are so popular. I’d also bet that the American Pie kids can party harder than the Wolf Pack from The Hangover. I dare any scene in The Hangover to go up against the opening sequence of American Pie where Jim watches porn when his mother bursts into the room. Looking back, it is easy to see that American Pie has often been imitated (Road Trip, Van Wilder, Tomcats, and any direct to video sequel) but could never truly be duplicated, this film featuring some truly inspired comedic situations.
American Pie gets far on its boys will be boys premise and the situations are mostly hysterically funny. The film literally embraces toilet humor in one scene involving a character’s crippling fear of taking a number two at school. American Pie ultimately has a touching interior that outshines a lot of the dated aspects of the film. It doesn’t shy away from the female perspective of sex, which is centered on true love and sensitivity in opposition to the boy’s hornball desperation. It is a shame there wasn’t more depth to American Pie outside of the idea of desperately trying to have one last hurrah with your high school chums. The film does have a few opportunities to explore high school cliques, but it goes no further than the band geeks having cool guy Stifler refuse them entry into a raging party, never really elaborating further. It also had a brief chance to tackle peer pressure but that too falls by the wayside. Oh well, at least everyone basically gets along in the world of American Pie and no one can argue with that in these cynical times. Even if some of the sequences have become creaky over the years, jokes have lost some of their zing, and some of the acting is unforgivably amateur, it was still nice to revisit the gang of American Pie and have a beer or three and maybe a few shots.
American Pie is now available on DVD.