Thursday, August 16, 2012

Movie – American Pie (1999)

American Pie was a huge hit when it came out at the end of the 1990s.  It made stars of several of the young cast, although most of their careers sputtered out after a few years.  The movie harkened back to the tons of teen sex comedies made in the 1980s.  For a while it was hailed as the “return of the sex comedy”, although we know now how poorly that prediction worked out.  If anything, movies have gotten even tamer since then, with pretty much all of the action relegated to only talking about sex now (i.e. Superbad).  For a brief time, though, it was a great return to the brilliant stupidity of the 1980s teen comedy.

I remember hearing about how “raunchy” American Pie was with people (including reporters) tee-heeing about a scene with a pie.  When I finally saw it I laughed quite a bit, but I thought to myself, “people think this is raunchy?  They should see 1981’s Porkys.  Now that was a raunchy, laugh your ass off and enjoy-the-sex-and-nudity teen comedy.”

Among the young cast members, Alyson Hannigan was probably the best known.  She had been on the great TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a few seasons.  (You can read my review here.)  Since this film she has also gone on to a similar level of success on the TV show How I Met Your Mother.  Thomas Ian Nicholas had been a child actor whose most notable role was in 1993’s Rookie of the Year.  Other than that, the rest were relative unknowns. 

Two members of the cast had breakout years in 1999 – Mena Suvari and Chris Klein.  In addition to this film, Suvari was also in American Beauty and Klein was in Election.  Both received very good notices from critics and the public.  These one-two combos propelled both to stardom, but both have also squandered that opportunity since then.  Suvari sort of faded away and Klein became more famous as the guy who Katie Holmes lived with for years before she met Tom Cruise.

The person who got the biggest career boost from this film was Seann William Scott as Steve Stifler.  He cemented his fame by following this up with another sex comedy – Road Trip.  He probably achieved the pinnacle of his career with the highly entertaining action comedy The Rundown – co-starring with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  Even Scott's career has tailed off, though. 

In a funny twist the actor in this film who probably has the best current career is John Cho (Harold and Kumar, Star Trek).  He played “MILF Guy #2”.  As an aside, this film pretty much brought the term “MILF” from obscurity into the mainstream.  If you’ve somehow managed to never learn what it means, it is an acronym, that when paraphrased, means a young man’s great appreciation for an older woman.

American Pie followed the formula of pretty much every 80s teen comedy – horny high schoolers want to lose their virginity.  Hijinks ensue.  In this case there were a few modern twists such as the use of a streaming webcam to peek at a girl, rather than looking through holes in the girls’ showers as in the 1950s-set Porkys.  Like Porky’s, American Pie used an unexpectedly sexually aggressive girl for some of the humor.  This was the most talked about scene in Porky’s.

Showing how times had changed, that wasn’t the most talked about scene in American Pie.  That one belonged to lead actor Jason Biggs and an apple pie.  One of his friends convinces him that the filling in an apple pie feels wonderful when you stick your penis in it, so he decides to try it.  Of course, he gets caught by his befuddled dad (Eugene Levy).

Just to show that there is no level of ridiculousness that the MPAA will not sink to, this scene originally caused the film to get an NC-17 rating.  The filmmakers changed the scene and later got an R.  What was the difference?  The MPAA determined that showing the actor lying on top of the pie on a counter and thrusting merited an NC-17 rating, but showing him standing up holding the pie in his hands and thrusting was an R.  I guess the MPAA figures you can’t really have sex with a pie if you are standing up, so it didn’t count.  Note – the unrated version of this film contains the original pie scene.

Legend has it that screenwriter Adam Herz sent the screenplay for this film to studios with the title “Teen Sex Comedy That Can Be Made for Ten Million Dollars That Will Make One Hundred Million Dollars.”  If true it’s both a great bit of marketing and a hell of an accurate prediction.  The estimated budget for the film was eleven million and it made just over one hundred million in the U.S.  It’s the accuracy of the prediction that makes me think this might be a story that’s a little too good to be true.  It’s still funny, though.

The success of this film led to three theatrical sequels (2001’s American Pie 2, 2003’s American Wedding, and 2012’s American Reunion).  It also spawned four (as of this writing) direct to video spin-offs.  The only connections they had with the theatrical movies were their titles (“American Pie Presents [fill in the blank]”), the fact that a character was usually related to someone from American Pie, and the presence of Eugene Levy.  I will be reviewing the three theatrical sequels only.

If you are uncomfortable with sexuality or nudity, then you should probably skip this movie.  For everyone else, it has some big laughs and I highly recommend it.

Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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  1. Good review Chip. This is just one of those great teen comedies that always gets better with each viewing and pretty much captures the exact essence of what it's like to be in high school. Now that I'm going off to college, it makes me miss and think about the people I surrounded myself a whole lot more.

    1. Thanks. Just wait until you're the age of those characters in American Reunion!

  2. This is not my type of movie AT ALL, but I do kinda like it, and it definitely has a heart. (I *hated* Superbad, though.) It's cute and funny and not nearly as raunchy as it thinks it is.

    Yeah... Mena Suvari... whatever happened to...

  3. I thought Superbad was hugely overrated. I kept waiting for something to happen, but it was all just about a couple of guys talking raunchy.

  4. No matter how old i get the movie is always refreshing...