American Pie
Universal, 1999
Directed by Paul Weitz


By Jason Rothman

With Hollywood's creative bankruptcy soaring to new levels, the studios are always looking for old genres to rehash. So some executive must've realized the teen sex comedy hadn't been done in a while. And I'm guessing that's why American Pie got the greenlight.

It's not that the movie's bad. It's just that it's been done before and done much better. Namely in the classic, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The only thing notable about this late-90s regurgitation is that it's so refreshingly crude.

The plot is nothing new: a group of high school seniors make a pact to lose their virginity before graduation. That's it. There are some big below-the-belt laughs along the way as various episodes of wackiness ensue. Most of these involve sex with objects, sex with food (including the titular dessert) or bodily fluids winding up in all the wrong places. All that might have been funnier if the scenarios weren't so corny. There's one bedroom sex scene that could only exist in a teenage boy's masturbation fantasies. It's a funny, sexy scene, but to ask the audience to believe that it's actually happening is a joke in itself.

We're left with a movie that feels like a cross between an After School Special and Penthouse Forum. Remember every outrageously lewd rumor you ever heard in high school? (You know, the ones that you usually heard from a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-who-knew-this-guys-sister?..) Well, you'll find them all played out in this movie. But you'll also find a lame, easy-way-out, feel good ending. The filmmakers may push the limits with the MPAA, but you also wish they'd pushed the limits of the formula.

The lead actors are all no-names, but at least most of them have more than one first name: Thomas Ian Nicholas, Seann William Scott, Eddie Thomas, Chris Owen and Shannon Elizabeth star. Up and coming actress Natasha Lyonne (The Slums of Beverly Hills) drops by for a few scenes, playing the only young character who's actually had sex, but each time it feels like she's visiting from some other, much better movie. Eugene Levy (SCTV)is also on display as a goofy dad, and it's nice to see him working again.

Bottom line: if you must see it, wait for video and rent it with a group of friends.

(c) Copyright 1999

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