American Pie - * * *

American Pie

If any of you have been pining the demise of the teen sex comedy, you need long no more. American Pie returns us to the glory days of Porky’s, Losin’ It and The Last American Virgin, when teens wanted sex and…well, that’s about it. Insubstantial and funny, American Pie entertains, but is quickly forgotten.

The plot of American Pie is extremely simple. Four seniors at East Great Falls High School bemoan the fact that they have not yet had sex. The four guys enter a solemn pact to lose their virginity by graduation, giving them one final hope: Prom Night.

Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) seemingly has the easiest job of the bunch, for at least he has a steady girlfriend, Vicky (Tara Reid). The other three are left to their own devices. Lacrosse jock Oz (Chris Klein) decides to join the jazz choir to win points with “choir girl” Heather (Mena Suvari). And Finch (Eddie Kay Thomas) somehow starts a rumor circulating on campus which has him eagerly sought after by many of the girls.

That leaves Jim (Jason Biggs), a teen cursed with horrendous luck, and even worse timing. Somehow, Jim’s parents have a knack for discovering him when he’s, um, …well let’s just say he’s not the master of his domain.

Yes, if you can’t tell by that, this is an 80’s style teen sex comedy with a heaping dose of 90’s style gross-out humor. Attempting to take the gags from There’s Something About Mary to the next level, American Pie gives us more bodily function humor than we know what to do with. Some of it gathers reflex chuckles, but most simply makes you ponder the loathsome legacy Mary hath wrought.

One truly refreshing thing about American Pie is that we are treated to teen characters who, gasp, are not stereotypes! Well, at least that sweeping statement can apply to the main characters; there are plenty of recognizable archetypes roaming around the fringes. It’s amazing to watch a high school set film, and not be able to pigeonhole the leads within the first two minutes. They actually seem like real people, and that’s a plus for the film.

However, a legacy of the 80s teen comedy that American Pie can’t quite shake is the absolute lack of strong female characters. The closest American Pie comes is with Jessica (Natasha Lyonne), who makes wry comments from the sidelines, but is never given a chance to shine on her own. All of the other girls in the film are just vapid props to entice the plot to its inevitable conclusion.

Things are better for the actors in the cast. Jason Biggs, in particular, is able to create a true flesh-and-blood character He seems, surprisingly, like a real teen, which is a highly unusual creature to find in the movies. Kudos must also go to Eugene Levy as Jim’s father, who understands his son’s situation, but who is always hopelessly (but hilariously) inept at expressing it.

As expected, the film never tries to be a sweeping social commentary. It aims low and goes for the cheap laughs, often hitting its target. Even though it makes you feel queasy at times, American Pie will leave you smiling.

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