DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
AMERICAN PIE  (director: Paul Weitz; screenwriter: Adam Herz; cinematographer: Richard Crudo; editor: Priscilla Nedd-Friendly; cast: Jason Biggs (Jim), Shannon Elizabeth (Nadia), Alyson Hannigan (Michelle), Chris Klein (Oz), Natasha Lyonne (Jessica), Thomas Ian Nicholas (Kevin), Tara Reid (Vicky), Seann W. Scott (Stifler), Mena Suvari (Heather), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Finch), Eugene Levy (Jim's Dad), Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler's Mom), Chris Owen (Sherman); Runtime: 95; Universal; 1999)

"Meant to titillate those in need of a teenage sexual message (massage)."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A gross-out teenage spoof about their need for sex to give them respect, as four upper-middle-class suburban high school male seniors make a pact to lose their virginity by the end of their senior year. The film has no point to make but to emphasize that silly challenge; but it, at least, softens its obnoxious attitude with an ending that is more satisfactory than what I expected. I can't see anyone but acne covered teenagers finding anything here of interest. Though some adults might look back to those halcyon school days with an anxious leer and wish to recapture some pubescent memories of some shameful incident and to feel the nostalgia again through this movie. Looking through the eyes of a lost adolescence is perhaps the only way to view this movie, a movie that makes sex into something that is implicitly evil.

Nevertheless, as awful as this gross-out film is -- it will become a hit with its targeted youthful audience, following the footsteps of that other cheap thrill movie "There's Something About Mary;" and, because sex sells, other films like this one will unfortunately follow suit.

The sexual awkwardness of the boys is exaggerated for comedic purposes, and the school looks as if it is around only as a stage for the teenager's rite-of-passage. Everything is used to get a laugh but the film wasn't really funny, though its commercial success is due to the guilty laughs it evokes. It was just a childishly gross and a sexually raunchy movie. But it smartly restrained itself and never pushed the envelope that one step too far, staying well within the framework of how traditional sitcom comedy works.

The film's four grossest scenes are: 1) Beer with scum in it is swallowed by an unsuspecting victim. 2) A girl unknowingly undresses in front of a videocam while the entire school watches on the Internet, as an email is mistakenly forwarded to all the high school students telling of the site. 3) One of the boys masturbates on his mother's warm baked apple pie. 4) A boy is given a strong dose of laxatives and runs into the girls' bathroom and can't control the embarrassing sounds the girls hear. There were other gross-out scenes in a movie that had no edge, just embarrassing moments and vulgar gestures. If it weren't for all the grossness about sex and toilets, this would be a typical family-fare TV sitcom. There is nothing political about these seniors and the only thing that humanizes their obnoxious antics, are the girls. They are around to tell these immature boys what a girl wants in a relationship.

The film sells itself through its sex scenes and then after exploiting every awkward sexual moment it possibly can from the teens it reverses itself with a contrived moral ending to say that love is not forced and comes naturally, while those only interested in sex are creating unnecessary problems for themselves and putting undue pressure on themselves to be happy.

"Pie" makes four slices, showing how the four high school failures graduate in sex. They are seen together and individually as they make their moves to lose their innocence. Jason Biggs is Jim. He's a good student, an affable and sympathetic figure, who gets tongue-tied when trying to talk to a girl he is attracted to. Jim is experimenting with different ways to masturbate, but he seems to get interrupted by his father (Levy) when he is in the middle of stroking the salami. Jim's understanding father uses these opportunities to drily lecture him about the birds and the bees. Jim's moment of truth will come when the geek (Hannigan) he takes to the prom, turns out to be a sex freak. Thomas Ian Nicholas is Kevin. He has gotten to third base with his steady girlfriend Vicky (Tara Reid) and spends the entire picture trying to score with her. Kevin's big deal, is that he can't say the four-lettered word love -- like, I love you Vicky. Chris Klein is Oz. He's a handsome but not-too-bright star lacrosse player, who strikes out with the girls because he acts like a jerk. Oz realizes that he is not getting anywhere with that macho jock attitude, so he switches directions and decides to join the chorus and become more sensitive. Oz meets Heather (Mena Suvari) and she is supposed to be a goody two-shoes, as they try to see if their relationship can be the real thing. Eddie Kaye Thomas is the intellectually gifted Finch. He gives Vicky's friend, the sexually mature and wisecracking Jessica (Natasha), $200 to spread the word that he's a great lay and well-endowed. Natasha overshadows the teens in this film as she appears like Mae West, much too advanced for this crew. Natasha says that she lost her virginity when she foolishly believed the guy loved her.

The side players add to the gross-out gags. Seann W. Scott is Stifler. He is a rich but obnoxious jock. Stifler throws the parties all the in-teens attend, and he constantly gloats about how great he is. Chris Owen is Sherman. He is a creepy character who gloats of a sexual conquest to impress others, which turns out to be a lie. For what goes for comedy, he pisses in his pants when he gets caught in his lie. Shannon Elizabeth is Nadia. She is a sexually appealing exchange student from Eastern Europe, who is the victim in the videocam. Jennifer Coolidge is Stifler's mother, who will do a Mrs. Robinson bit for Finch's post-prom graduation in sex. A totally unnecessary scene, that was played without emotion or reason.

The film's saving grace is the sound advice given about romance by the females. Everything else about the film was just as gross as it appeared to be. The unimaginative comedy is of the lowest level, meant to titillate those in need of a teenage sexual message (massage).

REVIEWED ON 7/28/2000     GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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