HALF-BAKED
Courtesy Photo
"AMERICAN PIE"
*1/2 stars 95 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, July 9, 1999
Directed by Paul Weitz

Starring Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Mena Suvari, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholson, Tara Reid, Jennifer Coolidge, Chris Owen, Seann W. Scott, Eddie Kaye Thomas & Eugene Levy



Read our reviews of...
"American Pie 2"
"American Wedding"




 COUCH CRITIQUE
   SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 20%
   LETTERBOX: NOT NECESSARY

The kind of video high-schoolers rent for kegger movie parties. Unlike the ribald humor of "South Park" or "There's Something About Mary", if you're not 14, male, and lead around by the monster in your pants, there's not much redeemable here.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 12/21/99




 REVIEW CROSS-REFERENCE
Mena Suvari:
"The Rage: Carrie 2" (1999)
"Slums of Beverly Hills" (1998)
"Kiss the Girls" (1997)
"'Til There Was You" (1997)
"The Long Kiss Goodnight" (1996)

Chris Klein:
"Election" (1999)

Natasha Lyonne:
"Slums of Beverly Hills" (1998)
"Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" (1998)
"Everyone Says I Love You" (1996)

Tara Reid:
"Cruel Intentions" (1999)
"The Big Lebowski" (1998)

Chris Owen:
"She's All That" (1999)
"October Sky" (1999)
"Can't Hardly Wait" (1998)

Eddie Kaye Thomas:
"The Rage: Carrie 2" (1999)

'American Pie' marks the regrettable return of the high-profile, low-brow teen sex comedy

By Rob Blackwelder

Somehow a rumor got started that "American Pie" was a daring, ribald, laugh-a-minute movie. The positive advance buzz on this thing -- essentially that it's a high school "There's Something About Mary" -- has been incredible, and completely untrue.

The reality is that it's nothing more than "Porky's" for the internet set or a wet dream episode of "Saved By the Bell." It's the regrettable return of the high-profile, low-brow sex comedy, aimed at idiots and hormone-driven teenage boys -- the kind of movie in which all high school girls are easy (even the angelic virgins) and hottie Swedish exchange students doff their duds at the slightest provocation and happily flop on their backs for the school's biggest dorks.

The plot, in one line of dialogue, is this: "Here's the deal -- we all get laid before we graduate."

The characters are passel of generic teenage pig and nerd virgin boys, trying to score with sadly indiscriminate girls. With a few notable exceptions (which we'll get to later), all of them are played by a stable of forgettable young actors from central casting.

The battle plan: Cash in on as much sex-centered gross-out humor as possible before the studio reigns the film in and demands some kind of homogenized and vaguely responsible ending they can point to when accused of corrupting American youth.

Tent-poled by a couple obvious and transparent gags (literally) -- including an already infamous, pastry-related, self-gratification scene and a beer-and-male body fluid cocktail -- "Pie" is largely a parade of tired, almost obligatory teen movie clichés recycled from the worst jiggle comedies of the '80s.

What's worse, for all its posturing as something brazen and outrageous, the movie lacks the conviction to follow through on the political incorrectness it lays on thick in the first few reels.

Trying to have it both ways, each boy's sexual quest leads to a sermonizing moral. "I've realized with you it's not like I'm (trying) to score," gushes one stud after finally bagging his reluctant girlfriend. "I feel like I've already won." The whole last act feels like it was written by a guidance counselor.

Not only does this abrupt change of ideology ring completely false in the wake of the mindless sex drive of the rest of the picture, but it presents a rotten message to teenage girls, the practical upshot of which is, if a boy shows even the most moderate and insincere consideration of your feelings, especially during sex, grab on! He's a keeper.

Any girl who would date the kind of jackasses portrayed as heroes in this movie has some serious self-esteem issues.

"American Pie" does have two saving graces:

1) Natasha Lyonne ("Slums of Beverly Hills," "Everyone Says I Love You"), who is absolutely perfect as a frank and mature-beyond-her-years sexpot, advising one of the leads, "If you wanna get her in the sack, just tell her you love her. That's how I was duped." (Obviously this comes before the politically correct whitewash.)

2) Alyson Hannigan (from TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), who is hilarious as the peppy and endlessly talkative band geek whose every line of dialogue (even the dirty ones) begins, excitedly, "This one time, at band camp..."

If "American Pie" had stuck to its initially raunchy guns, with a little work it might have struck the same kind of unabashed comedic chord as last week's "South Park" movie, the nastiest -- and funniest -- flick so far this year.

But instead it comes off like writer Adam Herz and directors-producers Paul and Chris Weitz (who wrote "Antz" and "Madeline") were caught by their mothers while collaborating on a numskull fantasy submission to Penthouse Letters and were forced to write hypocritical affirmations about respect to atone for it.






 



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