July 10, 1999 -- In a summer of raunchy films, this teenage sex comedy fits right in to the tradition of such films as "There's Something About Mary." It's got nudity, crotch jokes, semen jokes, foul language, but more than that, there's true romance and sweetness in it as well.
The story is about four virginal guys who make a pact to make their first sexual conquest prior to the end of high school. The four guys are Jim (Jason Biggs), a character who serves up premature jocularity and dirty dancing, Oz, (Chris Klein of "Election"), a jock who learns to be sensitive, Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas of "Rookie of the Year" who, unlike in that earlier movie, has trouble getting past third base) and the bookworm, Finch, (Eddie Kaye Thomas of "The Rage: Carrie II"), who learns to appreciate old Paul Simon songs.
The screenplay, written by Adam Herz, plays their scheming and bumbling for laughs, but the story also has each of the main characters making a journey of discovery about themselves and the girls they meet. It is an odd combination, the raunchiness and the tenderness, but it works, thanks to the deft touch of director Paul Weitz ("Antz"). Maybe part of the reason it works is some of the more unscrupulous characters get their comeuppances.
There are many good performances in the film, some by first time actors. Veteran actor Eugene Levy as Jim's dad, who has he thankless job of trying to talk about sex with his son, is very effective. Chris Owen plays a slimy character named Sherman, very unlike the character he played in the fine film "October Sky." Natasha Lyonne and Mena Suvari, who play Jessica and Heather, respectively (both appeared in "Slums of Beverly Hills") and Tara Reid ("Urban Legend"), who plays Vicky, and Alyson Hannigan (plays Willow in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") the flute-playing Michelle all create interesting characters in the movie. Kudos also go to Seann William Scott, who plays the lout named Stifler.
Unlike so many films these days, this film does develop its characters into distinct and interesting people, each with their own quirks and vulnerabilities. It is that very quality of vulnerability that seems to be lacking in many movies about teenagers. Too many movies that are supposed to be about the teenage years aren't convincing because the characters act too much like adults. For instance, the kids in the "South Park" movie talked and acted like adults and their characters were cold and without feeling. The Characters In "American Pie," on the other hand, seem very much alive.
There are some very funny scenes in this film, including unbelievable apple pie and tube sock sequences. The film does feature nudity and foul language, along with very raunchy humor, so it is definitely not for the kids who will want to see it the most. It also seems to promote that outdated and repudiated "good ol' boy" notion that you have to drink yourself into a stupor to have a good time. It is a surprise it is only rated "R." But it is very entertaining in a very raunchy way. It rates a B.
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