FILM OF THE MONTH
Also recommended this month
From the November 1999
Film Review

Film Review Hotline
AMERICAN PIE
3 Stars
You've got to be a Hustler... How low can you go?
How low can you go?
STARS: Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eugene Levy
DIRECTOR: Paul Weitz
SCREENPLAY: Adam Herz
CERTIFICATE: 15 DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright: UIP
RUNNING TIME: 1hr 36mins
OPENING DATE (UK): October 8

It’s rude, crude and lewd. It’s got T&A, oozing body fluids and, surprisingly, lots of heart. American Pie is this summer’s There’s Something About Mary, but as with 1982’s Porky’s, it’s aimed firmly at the crotches and dirty minds of teens. Thankfully, the movie is also very entertaining stuff.

American Pie serves up a group of high schoolers (Biggs, Klein, Nicholas and Thomas) itching to lose their virginity by prom night. This leads to all sorts of deliciously deviant behaviour, from ejaculating prematurely – twice – during an Internet-broadcast tryst with an exotic exchange student (Elizabeth) and masturbating into the eponymous defenceless pie to the gross-out drinking of a semen-laced beer.

Though not nearly as observant as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a film that truly captured its era, American Pie has spirit to spare. And, unlike the recent Drop Dead Gorgeous, it’s mercifully not in awe of its own wit and the laughs seem intended to amuse the audience, not the film-makers.

Even better, American Pie makes great use of its female characters. Elizabeth may be the resident sex bomb, but she’s no dummy. Mena Suvari winningly plays a sweet choir girl who introduces lacrosse stud Klein to love rather than sex, while Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Alyson Hannigan goes delightfully against type as a mousy, chatterbox band nerd who has a way with a flute.

On the testosterone side, Biggs comes off as an inspired dork, while Thomas is both creepy and likable, and Klein – so good in Election – shines again here, particularly in his sweet scenes with Suvari. Providing a touch of adult perspective, Eugene Levy is ideal as Biggs’s patient if exasperated father, who does his damnedest to teach his boy about sex.

To be sure, Pie isn’t perfect. It’s far from original and though often a riot and decidedly un-PC, it never feels quite real, either. You know from frame one that you’re in a movie peopled by razor-thin stock characters: the dork, jock, babe, angelic virgin and the experienced girl (the ever-colourful Natasha Lyonne reworking Phoebe Cates’s Fast Times role). And despite a couple of unexpected twists, the assorted outcomes are too pat, with obvious and simplistic lessons learned by all.

If you’re looking for a lewd, crude knockabout with plenty of laughs, you could do worse than take a bite of this particular pie.

Ian Spelling

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Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 1999. Not for reproduction.
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