Sunday, 28 April 2013

American Pie (1999)

It's obviously not going to be for everyone (which is, I realise, quite a redundant saying as it could be applied to every movie ever) but American Pie is a classic in the teen comedy genre. It may not have the nostalgia factor of an American Graffiti or the sharp, dark, wit of Heathers, but it has memorable set-pieces, some great characters and a sweetness running through all of the bawdy antics.

Four young men (played by Jason Biggs, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Chris Klein and Thomas Ian Nicholas) make a pact to lose their virginity by prom night. Jim (Biggs) is awkward and prone to mishaps that see him extremely humiliated, Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) tries to maintain an air of intelligence and sophistication about him even while desperate to get a date, 'Oz' (Chris Klein) joins a singing group in a stealthy move to get close to some good-looking girl (Mena Suvari) and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is already happy with his girlfriend (Vicky, played by Tara Reid) even though he can't bring himself to say: "I love you". Also involved with this quartet are Jim's dad (Eugene Levy almost stealing the entire movie), the coarse and carefree Stifler (Seann William Scott), a lovely foreign exchange student named Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) and a young woman (Alyson Hannigan) whose every story seems to take place at band camp.

Written by Adam Herz, and directed by Paul Weitz (with some uncredited help from his brother, and producer, Chris Weitz), this fairly zips along from one-liner to one-liner in between the truly hilarious set-pieces. I always felt that when it was first released it was done a disservice with the talk about it being so focused on one particular pie-related incident. Thankfully, most of the other set-pieces throughout the movie are actually a lot better than the main pie moment and every scene between Jim and his dad is full of comedy gold.

The film made stars out of some of its leading players although many of them could never quite escape the shadow cast by this one huge success (well, okay, this one and the official sequels before the brand name was ruined by the many "American Pie Presents..." movies - more on those at a later date). Jason Biggs highlighted his problem with his memorable cameo role in Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back when he said: "No, it always comes back to that fucking pie! I'm HAUNTED by it!"
Still, he did better than some of his co-stars, with the main breakouts from the film being Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan (who'd already been doing such great work on Buffy The Vampire Slayer anyway) and Seann William Scott.

Mind you, what do audiences care about the career paths of those onscreen? The fact that they were all in one place for this movie, and the few main sequels, is all that matters. That allowed people to hear the choice insults from Stifler, it allowed eagle-eyed viewers to spot Blink 182 in a sequence that I rate as the comedy highlight of the whole movie, it allowed everyone to learn the word MILF (if they didn't know it already) and it simply allowed for everything to come together to make a near-perfect, raunchy teen comedy. I've not even mentioned Jennifer Coolidge, Natasha Lyonne, Chris Owen (as "The Sherman-ator") or the fleeting appearances from John Cho and Casey Affleck, but I guess that highlights the best thing about American Pie - there's so much more to it than just the pie.


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