Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jason Briggs, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari, Eugene Levy
Director:  Paul Weitz
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Universal
Features:  See Review
Length:  96 Minutes
Release Date: 
July 31, 2001  

"It's always about sex, isn't it!"

"It's NOT always about sex!...I just thought THIS time it was about sex."

Film ***

Every teen comedy that comes out today owes something to the ones that came out in the 80’s.  Films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Porky’s have paved the way for today’s movies like Can’t Hardly Wait, and now, American Pie.  And Pie pays a very nice homage…the band at the prom actually plays “Don’t You Forget About Me” from The Breakfast Club.  There’s something comforting about knowing that 15 years later, kids are still seducing each other to that tune.

American Pie is an unapologetic raunch comedy in the same vein as the aforementioned Porky’s.  It’s about a group of kids whose only problem is that of sex.  Nothing here about the part time jobs, the big English tests, the SAT’s, or anything of that ilk.  Loss of virginity is the only issue at hand here.  As such, the movie doesn’t really cover any new ground, so there are really only two questions to ask:  is it funny, and is the cast of kids appealing?  The answer to both is yes.

During the last stretch of their senior year, four friends make a pact to experience the opposite sex by the end of prom night.  Otherwise, they face the rather unpleasant prospect of having to go to college as virgins.  What predictably follows is the way the film goes about breaking every taboo in terms of content, language, and good taste.

What’s not so predictable, though, is the consistently sweet nature of the picture in between the gross-out gags.  This film doesn’t employ the misogynistic spirit of Porky’s, where women are merely objects of desire and don’t get the benefit of having their real feelings shown on the screen.  One example is the young man who hesitates to say “I love you” to his girlfriend…not because he’s a typically inept male who can’t say the L-word, but because he’s not sure he wouldn’t just be saying it in order to have sex with her…and he doesn’t want to do that.

Another pleasant surprise is the inevitable prom night party sequence, which of course, is driven by the burning question about who will lose their virginity and who won’t.  Here, the comedy is peppered nicely with some sweetness and legitimate romance.  It’s not a night where the conquering hero strips off his shirt and beats his chest in victory afterward.  The member of the group who’s the most envied the next day is the one who’s actually fallen in love. 

If these aspects sound corny, they don’t come across that way, largely because of the winning spirit of each and every cast member.  They all strive to achieve a sense of reality in their characters, rather than just being teen comedy stereotypes, which would have been very easy to fall into.  In fact, they’re almost laid out like that.  The nice guy who has bad luck with girls, the jock, the intellect, the guy with the girlfriend who won’t go that next step, the experienced girl, the innocent choir singer, and so on.  What each performer brings to the table is exactly the right ingredient to transcend the shallowness.  Eugene Levy is especially good as the father who has to give the sex talk to his son.  He mixes nerdiness with hipness, and his are some of the film’s funniest scenes.

But don’t get the idea that the movie is any less gross than advertised.  For starters, the movie’s title has nothing to do with the Don McLean song (I’ll leave it at that).  There’s a laxative joke…nothing new, but a bit funnier here than ones I’ve remembered,  And, a la Austin Powers, there’s a bodily substance in a beverage, but with a much better payoff. 

Incidentally, in case you’re wondering why this version and the R rated version show the same running time, the only difference between them is the addition of a few extra frames of an internet show, and, of course, the pie scene.  Both together only add up to ten, maybe twenty seconds of additional footage.

Video ***

Universal has delivered a mostly quality anamorphic transfer here.  The picture is sharp and clear throughout, with no evidence of grain or compression, and the print is equally clean.  Colors are well contained and defined.  Flesh tones are natural all the way.  The only complaint I have, and it’s a miniscule one, is that the coloring seemed just a click less bright than they should throughout.  I may be wrong about that, but even if I’m not, it’s nothing to be concerned about. 

Audio **1/2

The 5.1 soundtrack is serviceable, but given the nature of the film, is mostly unremarkable except when the songs play.  The dialogue is all clean and well rendered throughout, and the surrounds don't get much use, but the music sounds great.

Features ****

This DVD is a Universal Ultimate Edition disc, and it doesn’t disappoint.  You get a commentary with the filmmakers and some cast members, a trailer, production notes, cast and crew bios, a spotlight on location documentary, a soundtrack presentation, extras for your DVD ROM, and some outtakes.  In addition, there's a sneak peek at American Pie 2 plus a trailer, outtakes, poster concepts, a photo montage, and a music video and a live performance by Tonic.  As an extra touch, there are a couple of extra menus that allow you to go right to your favorite song or quote from the movie, in addition to the traditional chapter search. 


This is a film that doesn’t explore any uncharted territory, but is a quite funny and appealing movie nonetheless.  The fact that it rarely delves into the typically mean spirit of some teen comedies, and maintains a certain sweetness throughout despite the subject matter, make it a standout amongst other entries in the genre.  If you like your humor gross, raunchy, and sexy, then buy, buy this American Pie.