Retro Film Review: American Pie (1999)

in #aaa2 months ago (edited)


(SPECIAL NOTE: Capsule version of the review is available here.)

When American Pie, 1999 teen comedy directed by Paul Weitz, appeared in Croatian cinemas, the viewers were confronted with the film which had been almost universally panned by American critics and enthusiastically embraced by American public. The former called the film "crude, sexist and vulgar". Re-appearance of ticket-scalpers - people who had vanished with the arrival of VCRs in this part of the world - clearly showed which verdict Croatian public had accepted.

The sight of ticket-scalpers - phenomenon associated with what many people here refer to as "good old times" - partially explains the success of the film. American Pie benefited from 1980s nostalgia, cultural trend spotted and exploited by Hollywood. One element of 1980s popular culture were teen comedies which, unlike their 1990s counterparts, weren't burdened with "political correctness" and neo-Puritanical content standards. The difference between 1980s and 1990s teen comedies is best seen in the treatment of the issue most interesting to its teen audience - sex. The idea behind American Pie was very simple - to resurrect 1980s teen comedy through more sexually explicit content.

This is achieved through rather simple plot which switches its protagonists' priorities from romance to sex. Four friends, who are 18- year old, realise that they are virgins and make a pact to lose that virginity before the prom night. Their attempts to have sex lead to all kinds of humorous situations.

A year earlier many attacked Farrelly Brothers for the low standards of their toilet humour in their There's Something About Mary. This film goes even lower, with overwhelming majority of jokes being related to various bodily fluids. And, unlike most of good comedies, many of those jokes ask viewers to suspend not only their disbelief but also a great deal of their intellectual capabilities. The scene featuring Czech exchange student Nadia (played by Shannon Elizabeth) is one of such examples. However, despite all that, many jokes work and American Pie is, for the most part, pleasant viewing experience. This could be attributed to likeable and talented young cast, but the best impression was left by Eugene Levy in the role of Jim Levenstein, one of the protagonists' fathers. His scenes, which have more to do with real humour and less with foul language, bare women's breasts and bodily fluids, are among the brighter moments of the film. Because of that American Pie is pleasant movie experience, despite the fact that many viewers might feel guilty about it.

RATING: 5/10 (++)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on February 14th 2005)

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