American Pie (1999)
April 19, 2024 12:23 AM - Subscribe

Four teenage boys enter a pact to lose their virginity by prom night.

A riotous and raunchy exploration of the most eagerly anticipated -- and most humiliating -- rite of adulthood, known as losing one's virginity. In this hilarious lesson in life, love and libido, a group of friends, fed up with their well-deserved reputations as sexual no-hitters, decide to take action.

Wesley Morris: The result is a rhythmless comedy that's cued more like a horror film: semen-spiked beer, a Webcam that broadcasts the film's most exploratory loser, Jim (Biggs, a game boy who deserves a future) performing a striptease for the hot Czech transfer (Shannon Elizabeth) with the fake breasts, and, of course, that baked delight of the title. The camera lingers on these and a few other things as if they were designed to induce an audience to scream and plead not to go there. What else can you do when resident meat-head Stifler (Seann W. Scott) swigs Kevin's "pale ale" but shriek "No-o-o" ? Neither John Waters nor the Farrelly brothers inspired this. Wes Craven did.

"American Pie" is more interesting in unintentional ways, like the fact that it chooses sentimentality as its payoff rather than cringe-worthy scatological horseplay. To casting director Joseph Middleton's credit, these four guys' appeal lingers longer than the film's, with Klein's diet-Keanu, ready-for-anything aloofness making him, after his clueless spin in

Mary Elizabeth Williams: And at the Phillip Rothian heart of the film is Jim (Jason Biggs), a porn-loving, shaft-stroking, pie-defiling walking id whose devotion to his urges is so pure and single-minded, you've got to admire the guy. As his trying desperately to be open-minded dad, Eugene Levy may be the
first grownup in a teen sex comedy to supply his son with educational materials from the
Larry Flynt empire. In other words, he's entertaining as only a refreshingly original character can be.

As the group's members go through their respective rites of passage, some blissfully, others with a few snags and technical difficulties, the guys begin to realize what adults know all too well -- that sex really isn't everything.

Judging from "Coming Soon" and "American Pie," we may still be a long way from accepting the possibility that girls might actually enjoy flying solo. But in the meantime there's something weirdly and humanely comforting about the films' converse messages -- that no matter what crazy, confusing, sometimes humiliating trials you have to go through to have it happen, sex is just one of those things that's plain better when you've got a partner.

Sam Lenz: On the one hand, the film has its strengths. The way the film deals with the sexual desires of teenage boys (and the peer pressure that comes with sex) is brutally honest, and as a human male, I can still relate. The toxic masculinity that permeates the conversations between our four protagonists and chronic asshole Steve Stifler (played to perfection by Seann William Scott) is true to life. Everyone remembers a Stifler from high school, and if you don’t, surprise: you were the Stifler. The scenes between the five main characters encapsulate the dynamic of high school boys when adults aren’t watching.

Another strong suit of the film is the way it portrays the awkwardness of coming into your sexuality. Jim’s encounters with his father (the wonderful Eugene Levy), who is sometimes too open in his attempts to teach Jim (Jason Biggs) about sex, are both hilarious and relatable. Oz’s (Chris Klein) ill-fated encounter with a college girl is the same. The only teenager in the film that seems to know what they’re doing is Jessica (Natasha Lyonne), who acts as a sexual guru for multiple characters. Her advice is sometimes misplaced, but one gets the sense that she’s more sexually experienced than her peers.

The problem comes in with one part in particular: the webcam scene. Midway through the film, Jim is convinced by Stifler and his friends to set up a webcam in his room, so they can watch Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth), a foreign exchange student, change clothes when she comes over for a study date. Watching this scene as an adult made me queasy. The camera lingers on her body as she pleasures herself to Jim’s pornography. This part is not presented in a humorous manner; it’s a perverted fantasy in the worst way possible. It’s then played for laughs when the tables are turned on Jim and Nadia makes him strip in front of the entire student body (who are all watching due to a slip up on Jim’s part), though this comes much too late.

posted by Carillon (6 comments total)
(Very much not sure why the image displayed is for Shooter, not sure if that is a me problem or something else)
posted by Carillon at 12:24 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]

For whatever reason I came to American Pie after having seen others in the genre, and it was only ok for me. I loved Eugene Levy in it, and thought the friendship angle works really well, but didn't love everything else. I think Wesley Morris hit on it in the Road Trip review, but there's definitely more of a punishment vibe.

The other big piece is the Shannon Elizabeth scene. I certainly doesn't play well today with Ratting, the Erin Andrews stalking, and revenge porn proliferating. Nadia can't even enjoy herself without the male gaze interrupting and corrupting. Maybe in some ways it is more honest than other similar scenes where the actors are pretending to be alone. I guess you could argue that this at least brings the skeevy dynamics that might exist in an exploitation into the movie itself. Perhaps we should feel just as icked by the shower scene in Road Trip.

I don't ultimately by that though, in part because consent plays a large role in determining that this really is an invasion.
posted by Carillon at 12:32 AM on April 19

the Shooter image is a disturbing juxtaposition!
posted by supermedusa at 7:29 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]

Perhaps we should feel just as icked by the shower scene in Road Trip.

Yah, that's a really interesting contrast, and I was thinking about that scene after you posted about Road Trip, and thinking about why I felt like that scene is fine (I of course could be wrong about that).

So firstly, if you think it's wrong to have a joke that features naked women, then that scene in Road Trip is off the table. But the joke of that scene is just that the storyteller (Tom Green) is filling his story with licentious details, to the chagrin of most of his audience, until one extremely excited audience member is revealed to be a preteen boy.

And in remembering that scene... I still think it's pretty funny. It's obviously also designed to be titillating for the actual audience (us), but I'm not sure that's necessarily a bad thing either.

Anyway, there's my defense of a shower scene in a college comedy. Regardless, it goes without saying that the scene in Road Trip is way less problematic than that scene in American Pie, which is bad even by the standards of the time.
posted by Alex404 at 8:06 AM on April 19

I remember almost nothing from this movie except for the always excellent Levy, and the pie scene. I remember it being hyped as extraordinarily funny, but I didn't click with it.
posted by SoberHighland at 9:08 AM on April 19

The friendship angle is what gives the film heart, which is usually nonexistent in your average teen sex comedy. The archetypes are immediately familiar to most any circle of guy friends.

As much as I enjoyed Eugene Levy’s parts, I’m glad they gave Jennifer Coolidge a little more screen time in the sequels.
posted by dr_dank at 7:20 PM on April 23

« Older X-Men '97: Lifedeath — Part 2...   |  Delicious in Dungeon: Cleaners... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments