Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle American Pie

By Marc Savlov

JULY 12, 1999: 

D: Paul Weitz; Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Tara Reid, Seann W. Scott, Mena Suvari, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge.(R, 95 min.)

What hath Porky's wrought? This new, faster version of the semi-classic teen sex farce is a howler, bawdy yet constrained within its gross gridlock. It's as if the final print of Fast Times at Ridgemont High had been directed by the Farrelly brothers: Damn the torpedoes. In this case it's less a seeming re-creation of Amy Heckerling's classic than a go-for-the-lowest-common-denominator grab bag of raunchy sex gags and freakish outbursts. The cool thing is that it works. Biggs plays Jim, an 18-year-old high schooler who makes a pact with friends Oz (Klein), Kevin (Nicholas), and Finch (Thomas) on the eve of their prom. The deal? Time to get laid. Into this hormonal mix comes yahoo lacrosse buddy Stifler (Scott) and his ready and willing mother (Coolidge), foreign exchange student Nadia (Elizabeth), band camp geekette Michelle (Hannigan), and Kevin's longtime, no-action girlfriend Vicky (Reid). But who will have whom? That's at the heart of the Weitz brothers' film (Chris produced it), a gooey slice of American Teen Male 101 that nonetheless strives mightily to put across the obvious message. Granted, that message -- "love is good, sex can wait" -- is old hat, and has been for just shy of a generation or more. Despite American Pie's outlandish, juvenile, and downright ridiculous takes on the fine art of auto-erotic pleasuring (hence the title, as if you were really asking), Weitz and company manage to fill the Vans that have come before. Just barely. There's nothing here as engrossing, as infuriating as Sean Penn's Jeff Spicoli -- the closest we get is Chris Owen's Sherman, a weasely virgin with an eye toward the future. Weitz and screenwriter Adam Herz (both debuting) make up for the lack of solidity with an overabundance of slackjaw freshman humor. As you may have noticed, CNN, E!, and other entertainment cable channels have taken it on themselves to decry American Pie's lack of good taste and surfeit of penis gags. And as much as I'd like to say it's all a load of hoo-hah, I suspect I ought not. American Pie, when you get right down to it (past the semen jokes and the many, many, many asides about teenage onanism), carries, for all its raunch, a pretty clear message: Love is good, and sex can wait. Would that so many teen sex comedies had such an endearingly simple caveat behind them. Weitz is a director with a terrifically silly script and not too much to say. Let's be thankful that what little he's saying at least comes in a Trojan (featured, commendably, throughout the film), as opposed to a frantic clinch.

2.5 stars


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