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Weekly Alibi American Pie

Don McLean Would Not Be Happy

By Devin D. O'Leary

JULY 26, 1999:  Get ready for the return of the great American teen sex comedy. Not since the heyday of Animal House, Porky's and Fast Times at Ridgemont High has so much randy adolescent behavior been put to such embarrassingly funny ends. I'm not exactly sure whether or not audiences have been clamoring for this sort of early-'80s drive-in movie flashback, but it seems quite likely that American Pie's mixture of lowbrow humor and lurid content will find just as receptive an audience today as it would have when Reagan ruled the roost. ... Come to think of it, in this era in which we are actually privy to our president's most private sexual predilections, perhaps a raunchy teen sex comedy is even more apropos.

Things kick off in typical teen sex comedy fashion as we're introduced to a quartet of high school pals deep in the throes of sexual depression. None of them, it seems, can get laid. With their senior year rapidly petering away (no pun intended), the four sexless pals make a pact to lose their virginity by prom night. Although this hardly qualifies as a groundbreaking plotline, it does put American Pie firmly in the bloodline of past teen sex comedies like The Last American Virgin and Losin' It (in which a young Tom Cruise attempts to perform the title task with Shelley Long, if you can believe it).

Right off the bat (no pun intended), viewers will notice a big difference between the sex comedies of yesteryear and today's example. Back in the day, the formula required breasts and plenty of them. Today, the nudity is reduced to a single topless scene. Far from being demure, however, American Pie unleashes an unending, unexpurgated parade of smutty set-pieces. Often straddling the line between irreverently rude and unbelievably crude, first-time scripter Adam Herz's script deals in masturbation, severe diarrhea, oral gratification, premature ejaculation, impure employment of baked goods and a gross-out guzzle that puts Austin Powers' poo-swilling prank to shame. Strange world we live in where a little gratuitous nudity is frowned upon, but frequent and graphic discussion of bodily fluids is hunky-dory. At times, it seems as if the filmmakers are trying hard to out-gross There's Something About Mary (and I ain't talking box office here). Let's just say they succeed with flying colors.

Just like Something About Mary, though, most viewers may find themselves laughing in spite of themselves. There are plenty of laughs dished out in American Pie, but few of them you'll be proud to 'fess up to.

Each of our four protagonists goes about his own personal deflowering in a different manner and with differing results. Main loveless loser Jim (Jason Biggs) dreams about a foreign exchange student and engages in enough onanistic behavior to put Judge Reinhold's character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High to shame. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) alternates the use of the big "L" (Love) and the big "O" (Oh, you know) in an attempt to convince his longtime girlfriend to go all the way. Lacrosse hunk Oz (Chris Klein) meanwhile turns up his sensitive side to romance a cute chorus chick. Finally, Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) allows a rash of complimentary rumors to circulate through school and soon discovers that living up to one's reputation can be a hard thing (no pun intended). Naturally, in the end, everyone learns a valuable lesson about love and responsibility. I guess.

The plot machinations aren't really very important, of course. It's really more about pushing the bounds of good taste and being funny. Frequently, American Pie succeeds in both. Actually, the funniest moments come when American Pie is being only mildly offensive. Jim's prom date with an ultra-geeky band student (Alyson Hannigan from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") is probably the best joke in the whole film, while former "SCTV" reg Eugene Levy contributes some spot-on moments as a flustered dad trying to provide some dating advice to his hopelessly distracted son.

It would have been nice if the filmmakers had seen fit to throw in a smidgen of serious drama just to trim the boat a little. Fast Times got good mileage out of its dual smutty comic/serious characters. The characters in American Pie aren't particularly well-defined, though. Early on, it's hard to tell one from the other. The fact that these characters seemingly do nothing outside of chase the opposite sex doesn't help matters. Even the cast of the raunch classic Porky's got to deal with a dose of anti-Semitism between booby shots.

American Pie isn't for everyone. Viewers with a low-set moral switch and a fondness for dirty jokes will be appropriately amused. Sensitive viewers, on the other hand, are likely to flee the theater with a very bad taste in their mouths (no pun intended).


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