A-RON’S FILM REWIND SERIES TAKES YOU BACK IN TIME TO HAVE A SLICE OF THE PIE, FOR THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF “AMERICAN PIE”.
In 1999 I was 14 years old and getting to see a well placed, coming of age raging hormone filled movie was a huge deal. It was my first real foray into the teen sex comedy, highlighted by obscene comedy and a sublime plot, the films tag line rings true that “It’s as wholesome as American Pie”. Ok sure it may not have invented the genre, that was done generations ago with “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”, “Revenge Of The Nerds” and “Porky’s”. What “American Pie” did bring is that teen sex comedy genre to a whole new generation, especially if you consider yourself a typical late 90s teen.
The film was a box-office hit grossing a worldwide revenue of $235 million, becoming the twentieth highest grossing film of 1999. The success of the first film spawned three direct sequels: “American Pie 2” (2001), “American Wedding” (2003), and “American Reunion” (2012), including four direct to DVD spin off films bearing the title American Pie Presents: “Band Camp” (2005), “The Naked Mile” (2006), “Beta House” (2007), and “The Book of Love” (2009).
In response to the success of the fourth film “American Reunion”, a fifth theatrical film was slated to go into production under the working title “American Pie 5”. However in August 2017, Seann William Scott (who played Stifler) said in an interview that the fourth film probably had not made enough to warrant the fifth film to go into production.
Director Paul Weitz, who never directed before, but went on to direct Hugh Grant’s “About A Boy” and Dennis Quaid’s “Good Company”. His brother Chris Weitz (produced it) who never produced before nor directed, but went on to direct “The Golden Compass”, “Twilight: New Moon”, Oscar Isacc’s “Operation Finale” and co-directed “About A Boy”. The Weitz brothers are joined by screenwriter Adam Herz who never wrote a screenplay before and only has the first three “American Pie” films as writing credits.
The Weitz brothers and Adam Herz have cooked up two hilarious hours of impure pow filled with nudity, crotch jokes, semen jokes, foul language, but more than that, is “American Pie’s” true romance and sweetness in it. “American Pie” is a teen movie tale as old as time: Just a bunch of dudes trying to get laid. “American Pie” has an extreme commitment to the bit, as its relentlessly sex-positive attitude and its sneaky ability to be both disgusting and sweet. The reason “American Pie” and the following three sequels works as well as it does is the central cast. All equal parts male and female are all so uniformly endearing. Yep, that even includes Tara Reid long before she started fighting sharks for the SYFY channel.
For those who don’t remember, “American Pie” follows four friends in high school who make a pact to lose their virginity by graduation day (this alone makes it touchingly old-fashioned). Jim (Jason Biggs) is a likable, horny lug who nonetheless fails miserably with practically every person of the opposite sex he runs into, and is constantly being caught by his parents pleasuring himself. He first sets his sights on the beautiful foreign exchange student, Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth), but plans go awry when he has an embarrassing encounter with her that is accidentally transmitted via internet to the whole town. Desperate for a date to prom, he settles on the band geek, Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), whose every sentence that comes out of her mouth starts with, “and this one time, at band camp…”
Oz (Chris Klein) is the “jock” of the four friends. He plays lacrosse, and whenever with a woman, feels like he has to throw a bunch of corny lines her way. Hoping to meet someone, he joins the chorus and finds that he actually begins to like it, and like the sweet, innocent Heather (Mena Suvari), as well. Something Oz doesn’t anticipate in their relationship, though, is that he would really begin to care for her, and grow a more honest heart, which he also starts to do.
Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas of “Rookie Of The Year”) is the only one in the group with a steady girlfriend, Vicky (Tara Reid). As he tells it, they’ve only gotten to third base, but are beginning to have serious thoughts about going all the way. But first, Vicky wants to hear him say, “I love you,” three words that Kevin personally feels should not be thrown around lightly.
Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is a clean freak who runs home from school each day just to go to the bathroom (“Have you seen the facilities they have here?!”). All of the girls at the school begin swarming around him mysteriously, thanks to some rumors that the wordly Jessica (Natasha Lyonne), the advice-giving non-virgin of the group, is paid to spread around to help Finch out. And finally Stifler (Seann William Scott) is offensive, rude and immature. Stifler has a reputation for being extremely obnoxious and foul-mouthed. He’s never shy about (profanely) expressing his opinion.
When Herz was submitting his script to the studios, he originally titled it, “Untitled Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made For Under $10 Million That Most Readers Will Probably Hate But I Think You Will Love”. It was later changed to “East Great Falls High”, then “Great Falls”, and finally, “American Pie”, for two reasons due to the infamous apple pie humping scene and Herz felt that the story was as wholesome as “American Pie”. It took four tries for the film to get an R rating instead of it’s original NC-17 rating. Alyson Hannigan (who played Michelle) sums up “American Pie” the best that a teenager’s life is NC-17 rated, and far from being PG-13. You got to credit Weitz and Herz for realizing this, and for Universal Pictures in not backing down on the R-rating. It never once talks down to its targeted audience, it listens to its characters and portrays them in a real light.
As Jim, Jason Biggs is a real find and has never been better in any other film. Jim is an everybody/everyday guy that many people his age will be able to relate to, including the desperation and the humility he gets when his caring father (played by a scene stealing and very funny Eugene Levy) who constantly finds him in the most uncompromising positions, whether with a tube sock or an “American Pie”. As Stifler, Seann William Scott makes his feature film debut, Scott who out of the male cast who made a name for himself in his career after “American Pie”, starring alongside The Rock in Peter Berg’s “The Rundown”, “Dude Where’s My Car”, “Bulletproof Monk” and “The Dukes Of Hazzard” among others. You can see him currently playing lead character Wesley Cole opposite Damon Wayans Jr in Fox’s TV series “Lethal Weapon”, based on the film series.
Alyson Hannigan who is best known as a TV actress in all 9 seasons of “How I Met You’re Mother” and getting her start in the 7 season run of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. Alyson’s callback audition for “American Pie” is an interesting one as she went to the audition reading, Hannigan really having to use the bathroom. She ran from the waiting room to the bathroom and her name was called right after she had got back from the bathroom. She went into the audition without having calmed down causing her to read the part really quirky and with an over amount of energy, which caused her to her getting the part of horny band camp student Michelle.
Comedic gem Eugene Levy was told he could improvise much of the dialogue for his character, including the part when flipping through the pornographic magazines with Jim, forcing a noticeably muffled laugh from Jason Biggs that came with the “giant orgy” line. Thanks to “American Pie” and Jim’s webcam the world discovered who Shannon Elizabeth aka: Nadia was. She lived on for months in boys hearts, minds and dreams. Shortly after appearing famously nude in the film, Shannon Elizabeth went on to do a Playboy spread. After the spread, she decided to quit appearing nude in films, out of fear of being typecast. She later called her Playboy appearance “one of her biggest regrets”. Alyson Hannigan and Shannon Elizabeth were both 24 in the first film and were the oldest women playing teen characters.
As one of the franchises most famous cameos and having one of the most repeated lines in movie history. 26 year old John Cho who was the oldest male cast member to play a teenager. Contrary to popular belief, “American Pie” didn’t actually invent the term “MILF”. In research for this article I found that in 1995 Usenet (one of the older forms of the internet) initially used the acronym, pre-dating the movie by four years. However, the film can be largely credited as being the one to significantly popularize the slang term which is still used today.
“American Pie” involves a great deal of sexual content that was too advanced for high schoolers during it’s release in 1999. A lot of the characters were more casual about it than real teenagers might have been. But it expertly observes all of the rules of a great comedy. In the tradition of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” and all the more recent teen sex comedies. It’s cheerful, hard-working, funny, and the most important thing that it’s sweet and doesn’t play it mean.
Its characters are sweet and lovable. There are no blatant cliques to be found in the film’s Michigan high school of East Great Falls, at least not of the popular type, no overly snotty teens that are as one-dimensional. Instead we have high school students dealing with the day-to-day of their raging hormones and budding relationships. Sure, there are the jocks who interestingly, play lacrosse rather than football; the singers in the glee club and the band students, just as in a real high school. That is exactly the element of “American Pie” that was most appreciated.
Even re-watching it 20 years later, it isn’t just about a bunch of teenage guys trying to have sex. It’s about friends in high school bonding and going through these things together. It’s about winding down your high school days and not knowing what’s in front of you or ahead in your future. Yes sex is one thing and it’s an important and unavoidable thing life throws at you, but “American Pie” reminds us that great friends are important too. And amid all of the raunch and riotous behavior, there’s a niceness to the characters that makes them feel real and human. Made as a smaller film before it blew up as a generational icon, “American Pie” has as much soul as it does sex.
I respected the hell out of the film and I still do, because it’s still funny 20 years later. It may not have invented the genre, but it did bring that genre to a whole new generation. When compared to the pantheon of teen comedies, “American Pie” doesn’t come close to measuring up with the king of teen comedies John Hughes and his flicks from the 80’s, like “Sixteen Candles”, “The Breakfast Club”, or “Ferris Buellers Day Off”. Paul Weitz’s “American Pie” is an outrageous comedy that gets its kick out of being as raunchy and shocking as ever, in the confines of an R-rating. I loved re-visiting the original film and it’s three sequels (“American Wedding” is my favorite, directed by Bob Dylan’s other son Jesse Dylan), as each film had a different filmmaker all different styles with the same raunch and the same heart of gold. It’s interesting to see how the times have changed over the 20 years in the way people and teens react to sex. After 20 years the film is still as sweet, funny and as wholesome as “American Pie”.
Ranking The Slices Of Pie:
•American Pie: ★★★★☆
•American Pie 2: ★★★☆☆
•American Wedding: ★★★★☆
•American Reunion: ★★☆☆☆