MOVIE REVIEW

American Pie

American Pie
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American Pie Remember high school? I mean, the parts you didn't firmly repress. I tend to remember it as a haven, where all sorts of people got along. Where popularity was only in the eye of the beholder. Where prom kicked ass. Where romance bloomed in the cheesiest, most eunech-y way possible.

A place where all my deepest delusions take root. Let's face it. Most of us in high school didn't quite fit in, and the slightest social wrong can leave one permanently castigated. Where prom had a lousy band or a clueless DJ who thought playing the BeeGees was the height of retro-cool (and if he took requests, it could get very bad). Where I was so narrowly focused on getting laid that I never took the time to actually develop meaningful relationships with women.

And the brilliance of American Pie is not in the gigantic setpieces of sexual hi-jinks (like the eponymous baked good). It's the fact that it deals honestly (if superficially) with the fact that a lot of being a guy in high school was not very pretty. But looking back, it is pretty damn funny.

Jim (Jason Biggs) and his buddies (Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas, and Chris Klein) make a pact: get laid before they graduate. Of course, this is easier said than done. As the lads eagerness gets the better of them, they engage in a number of misadventures that are better not expounded upon here. By the end of the film, some learn important lessons. Some learn next to nothing. Some actually regress a bit. But everyone gets amped up on that good ol' end of the year wackiness.

Let it be said that there has not been a cast more game than this one in recent years. That's not necessarily a good thing. While Biggs and Thomas are brilliant as lovable losers who exist just outside of the stereotype of everyman and anemic geek (respectively), Nicholas and Klein are vacuums. They want to be good actors. Really they do. But they aren't - not in the least little bit. Klein at least has an excuse...he's playing an athlete, and it could be argued he's going for the dumb jock thing. Nicholas is supposed to be the Team Leader, but is consistently out-charisma'd by the eternally goofy Biggs.

Special note goes out to Eugene Levy as Jim's clueless dad. This man steals every scene he's in. He's an irresistable force of comedy, and his well-meaning but embarrassing "heart-to-hearts" with his son are highlights of the movie. The same goes to Seann William Scott (credited as Sean W. Scott) who plays unrepentant horndog Steve Stifler. Thank god the two of these guys never shared a scene together. It might have resulted in a time-space-comedy paradox.

The ladies...ooooh the ladies. Tops among them are Alyson Hannigan (of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fame) as band dork Michelle and Natasha Lyonne as sexually savvy Jessica. Neither part is very large, but both make an impression. On the other hand, Tara Reid and Mena Suvari are both extremely painful to watch. Reid I can understand. She's always that terrible. But Suvari's done better work than this. *sigh* Any comment about stunner Shannon Elizabeth...well, she's droolworthy, even when her fake accent doesn't come through.

The direction tries to capture that point-shoot-and-hold methodology of other 80s sex comedies, although the few times that they do go to extended Steadicam shots, its pretty impressive (especially given that the Weitz Bros. were both neophytes). Sure, they screw up sometimes (exposed equipment, continuity errors), but for the most part, they get things right, and their comic timing is pretty excellent.

The Collector's Edition DVD (not the Ultimate Edition, or the Super-Ultimate Edition, or the Hyperspace-Mega-Ultra-Dynamo Edition) contains a commentary that sadly, just has too many people. There's both directors, the writer, and three of the actors, and most of the time is spent ogling at the well-endowed females or noting how funny one performance is (and they pick some really random, tiny performances sometimes). There's a 10-minute featurette on the making of the film that's pretty light on actual information. However, the film is in widescreen and unrated. We should appreciate these small, but highly necessary details for the godsends they really are.

Oh, look. It's sort of one of those movies everybody of a certain age should watch. I don't care if you're really that age, or if you never left there emotionally, or whatever. Find an excuse to be in that certain age for 95 minutes, and I guarantee fun and satisfaction.

Now, I have some pie in the oven. If you'll excuse me.



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