So, this one time, in band camp…
If there’s one thing I’m probably going to remember about American Pie, it’s the constant repetition of this line by one of its characters. Why is this what sticks in my head? Perhaps it’s because most of the jokes and gags in the film are forgettable, and not particularly insightful or interesting. There’s very little in American Pie to latch onto, especially once the primary characters are established. You can see exactly where it’s going and how it’s going to get there.
Our lead, ostensibly, is Jim (Jason Biggs). He, along with his friends, is a high school senior. We’re weeks away from graduation, and he and his friends are all still virgins. Since going to college a virgin would be, like, the most terrible thing in the entire world, they enter a pact: all of them will lose their virginity before graduation, probably on prom night. The other participants are Oz (Chris Klein), a lacrosse player; Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), some guy; and Paul (Eddie Kaye Thomas), an old soul—someone who is sophisticated beyond his years.
Their potential partners: Jim is lusting over a foreign exchange student, Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth); Kevin has a long-term girlfriend in Vicky (Tara Reid); Oz joins the choir and meets Heather (Mena Suvari); and Paul doesn’t have anyone in the foreseeable future. They will go through a series of scenes where they both come close to their goal and seemingly irreversibly screw it up, even though, as I said earlier, nothing is in doubt in this film. It’s too … “nice,” I guess. That’s not really the word I want. Perhaps “safe” is better.
Oh, it’s a raunchy film, one that frankly discusses sex and everything about it, but its plot never puts things in true jeopardy. Whenever something gets messed up, you never really feel like it’ll stay that way. After the second time that Jim manages to fix everything magically, you become aware that everything will be perfect by the time that it’s all over. It’s a little hard to become invested in the various gags because, while sometimes funny, the amount of suspense they try to generate just isn’t very high.
It’s predictable, frequently isn’t
funny, and has bad acting.
The laughter primarily comes from misunderstandings. Jim will do something innocent, but it’ll spiral out of control so that everyone thinks something bad is happening. The audience knows what’s really going on, but the characters don’t, and thus we have dramatic irony, which here is used as comedy. It … sometimes works. The funniest parts, for me, came from Jim’s various interactions with his father (Eugene Levy), which are as awkward as you can probably expect.
Here’s what I don’t get. The film has one other central character I still haven’t mentioned. His name is Steve Stifler (Seann W. Scott), and he’s the obnoxious frat boy-type character. He spews profanity, makes all the girls feel uncomfortable, and is basically an awful person. And the film throws him at us frequently, despite him not being one of the core four, or really having much at all to do with them. Why? Scott does a good job playing him, but it’s not a funny character even when taken to the extreme.
The acting is pretty bad. American Pie often feels like an amateur production. The male leads are poor, and the female leads aren’t any better. It’s mostly the supporting actors who turn in any good work. Seann W. Scott is fine, Eugene Levy is pretty funny as the protagonist’s father, Natasha Lyonne works well as one of the girl’s friends, and Chris Owen shows up as someone who has seen The Terminator more than one too many times.
American Pie has a few funny moments, mostly coming through misunderstandings and awkward talks between father and son. Outside of that? It’s predictable, frequently isn’t funny, and has bad acting. Sure, it’s kind of raunchy, and if you’re under the age of 14, it might push some boundaries—and make you uncomfortable (and laugh) as a result—but if you could actually see it alone at a cinema, it’s not likely going to do much for you, beyond making you reminisce about your high school experience, for better or for worse.
Conclusion: American Pie has some laughs but it’s a mediocre-at-best movie.
Recommendation: If you like raunchy comedies you could do a lot worse … but you could also do better.
- Rating - 5/105/10