You Don't Score, Until You Score: American Pie (1999)

A rather lengthy and inspired discussion of the year of 1999 in film, put on by the guys over at Battleship Pretension resulted in me jotting down a huge list of movies I intend to revisit as well as quite a few more I decided that I had unjustifiably dismissed on the grounds that I assumed them to be flat out  terrible.  One such case emerges with American Pie, a film I had scene, not in its entirety and considerably watered down on cable the years after its initial release.  I had dismissed this as a less than stellar teenage sex comedy with little to offer and thought it to be similar to another Jason Biggs vehicle such as Saving Silverman, which I argue has not aged well.  However, I had for whatever reason failed to realize that American Pie is the beginning point for the late 90's early 2000's teen sex comedy and is considerably good in comparison to its countless failed spinoffs.  It has a reputation that certainly precedes it, particularly one scene involving a baked good, this scene of course looses some of its humor given that it is such a staple of comedic awareness to my generation, yet nothing manages to compare to its fixation on sexual release as it relates to male youth and curiosity.  Similarly, for one reason or another, American Pie has become a fixture of the nudity movie within the memory and rhetoric of teen sex comedies, and while it does have one prolonged scene of a topless girl, it is a relatively lackluster film on the naked scale.  What is provided for a viewer in American Pie is a solidly executed comedy about friends facing the woes of growing up and realizing that the shenanigans and free floating that got them through high school will not suffice in their years at college.  Of course the film is aged a bit and could only work in an context like 1999, however, that is not to say the film is dated by any means, because some of the themes and concepts promulgated within American Pie are certainly transcendent of an era.  What is certain about this film is its memorability its inspiration for an onslaught of spinoffs which proved underwhelming and for considerably changing how anyone born before say 1990 looks at a freshly baked pie.

As a coming of age tale, American Pie is distinctly centered on the experiences of a group, in this case a  few guys making a pact to get laid by the end of their senior year.  The first is the suave Kevin (Thomas Ian Nichols) who cannot muster up the courage to tell his long-time girlfriend Vicky (Tara Reid) that he loves her, the jock turned hopeless romantic Oz (Chris Klein), the ever-constapated and awkwardly adult Finch (Eddie Kaye) and the films somewhat clear protagonist Jim (Jason Biggs).  In fact, they desire greatly to walk in the footsteps of assumed sex fiend Stifler (Sean Williams Scott) who is known for constantly throwing well attended parties that always turn into shag fests.  Of course their plans to get laid are riddled with obstacles, whether it be the constant interference of Jim's well meaning dad, played almost too perfectly by Eugene Levy, or Oz's failed attempts to win over a glee club girl.  Even Finch who has a fool proof plan of creating rumors about his sexual prowess and well endowment.  Along the way the group realizes that getting laid, while considerably important to their self-identity is second to their assurance of friendship, self-respect and obtaining of true love.  Both Kevin and Oz even manage to gain closer romantic bonds with the women in their lives, while Finch manages to hook up with Stifler's mom, an act that plays out as an awesome homage to The Graduate.  Jim hooks up with band geek Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) although it is revealed that he is being used by her, although Jim does not seem to protest in the slightest, especially after a rather embarrassing moment of his sexual inadequacies is played for all to see online.  In the end the group is left in a similar situation as the film began, they are matured in a considerable manner, something that has clearly occurred without the influence of their sexual encounters.

For a film that has been and continues to be referred to as a sexual comedy, American Pie is expressly not about sex or the act of getting laid.  Sure this serves as the main point of narrative push, but I was surprised to find so much more beyond this surface reading of the film.  A considerable amount of this film focuses on the notion of evolving friendships and separation anxiety.  One could argue that the group seeks physical solace outside of their group not because they need to get laid per se, but because they realize that their attendance at differing universities assures that they will no longer be able to enjoy hot dogs or sandwiches at the local restaurant after school.  Furthermore, the film is not ill-willed in its portrayal of sex, while it does mock failure to perform and over glorifies heterosexuality, it does not predicate itself on demeaning individuals as a means of comedic advancement.  The comedy of American Pie is not about sex or the acts surrounding it, but instead about the woes of youthful ignorance, particularly when the group resides in a similar boat of not knowing, but due to societal expectations fail to admit to their lack of awareness.  Jim would never been placed in the situation of humiliating himself with a pie, were it not for the lie propagated by Oz as a means to seem cool, similarly Finch would not have made disparaging remarks about Stifler, were he to realize that they shared in the same latent desires.  Also in regards to the characters of Kevin and Oz the film makes exceptional note of the necessity of love in sexual encounters, placing both of those in prominence and even going so far as to suggest that the desire for emotional comfort trumps even that of physical conquest.  Also there seems to be a considerable amount of promotion for safe sexual encounters which is always welcome in my book, especially in a film that suggests pursuing multiple partners for intercourse.

Key Scene:  While it is the iconic scene from the film, it is a trademark and I have no right to undermine   its power.  As such the key portion of this film centers around youthful ignorance and its dire effects on a still warm pie.

This is a textbook rental film, but one worth watching and revisiting if you have not seen it is some time.

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