Sunday, 7 August 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 52 - American Pie

#49 - American Pie:

In possibly the biggest contrast to the last film I reviewed, I find myself once again visiting that comedy genre and I’m a little surprised at how many comedies I’ve actually reviewed so far. Here we have a fresh young set of teen actors hoping to make it big with this film, sadly of course not that many of them have hit it big apart from a few landing their own TV shows. There’s even a theory that this film ruined the careers of all the actors involved in it. We may discuss that later on but...

We have four teenage boys – Jim an awkward guy who can’t talk to girls, Oz star of the school Lacrosse team, Finch a virtual nobody who has a thing about using the school toilets and Kevin who is in a steady relationship with his girlfriend but is determined to get past third base. After a few mess-ups the four boys decide to make a pact – they will lose their virginity before high school is over and prom night is the deadline. Jim hopes to score with a Czech exchange student Nadia, Kevin tries to bring himself to tell his girlfriend Vicky that he loves her, Oz joins the school choir so he play off the sensitive edge with nice girl Heather and Finch...well for some reason girls are asking about him, and he’s got a sudden reputation. There’s also the antics of the curse-happy jock Steve Stiffler, the out-of-touch-with-reality bottle fairy Jessica and the perky band geek Michelle.

This film is hilarious and risqué, back in the day pushing the limits of what was being shown. Jim is just one big ticking time bomb and you would feel sorry for him except you just can’t wait to see what disaster he’ll get himself into next time around. Indeed after all he goes through in the film, you’d think he’d realise how much of a walking catastrophe he is and just barricade himself in his room forever. Well to be fair it’s not just Jim who gets mixed up in all sorts of messes as we do have Stiffler being unfortunate to drink some “pale ale” and unload all over some poor innocent girl (though to be fair the alternative was sex with Stiffler, so maybe she got off lucky) and poor Finch having an indiscretion in the girls’ bathroom thanks to some handy laxatives. When I first saw this, I wasn’t expecting actual nudity so that was a bit of a surprise – we have several minutes of Shannon Elizabeth showing off raw Nadia in prime condition and even having a date with Rosie Palms on Jim’s bed. And don’t worry, girls, there is plenty of male fanservice too so both genders can enjoy.

Jason Biggs, playing Jim, is just fantastic as the awkward virgin who bumbles and trips his way into all the awkward situations. This is really his career-making role and it’s a little sad that he doesn’t really seem to play any other parts than ones like Jim. He has great comic timing and really adds a lot with little things like facial expressions and that magnificent double take he does when Michelle says her infamous line. Speaking of Michelle, Alyson Hannigan is hilarious as well. I was expecting to see either Willow or Lily but she manages to stand out as a unique and quirky character. I could have watched a whole other film about just Michelle. Seann William Scott almost steals the show as Stiffler and I could have stood to see more screen time for him with all his blunt one-liners. Eugene Levy deserves some props for playing probably the best character in the film – Jim’s dad. He is fantastic with Jason Biggs, playing off all the compromising situations he finds his son in (“we’ll just tell your mother we ate the pie”) and he wouldn’t be a bad person to have as a dad. I enjoyed both Mena Suvari and Tara Reid’s parts as the main love interests for two of the characters, Mena in particular standing out against the other role she’s most famous for. A lot of the other actors were pretty funny as well such as Jennifer Coolidge as Stiffler’s Mom, Eddie Kaye Thomas as Finch and a one-scene-wonder in John Cho, aka The MILF Guy.

Sadly, not all of the performances were top-notch. Thomas Ian Nicholas tries his best but he just sounds dull with all his lines. All he really does is chuckle awkwardly while trying to deliver his lines. He and Tara Reid have really no chemistry at all which is a pity because she is quite good here. His character is likeable enough, it’s just his delivery and performance that bring him down. Equally awkward is Chris Klein who plays Oz. He doesn’t have much chemistry with Mena Suvari either and his performance is a little bit cringeworthy. Needless to say, it’s not a big surprise that neither of them has made it that big in Hollywood. On a more positive note we also have cameos from Christina Milian, Casey Affleck and all three members of Blink 182. 

Easily the best scene comes right in the middle where Nadia arrives at Jim’s house to study and starts changing in his room, where he has set up a webcam feed. The feed has unfortunately gone out to every computer in the area, unbeknownst to Jim. Nadia starts masturbating on Jim’s bed and Jim walks in, so she persuades him to do a strip dance for her. Remember that this is happening right over the internet. And then he sadly makes a big bomb during the next phase of action. The scenes with Michelle are all pretty good, especially the part where she reveals to us what she actually did at Band Camp. Apparently Alyson Hannigan also ad-libbed the “say my name bitch!” line as well.
In terms of less comedic scenes, I really like the slow montage of the four guys going about on prom night, at Stiffler’s house. They have a good mix of drama in the shots of Oz and Heather, and Kevin and Vicky as they both have the same slow love song playing over them. They also mix a bit of comedy in for the bits with Jim and Michelle, and Finch and Stiffler’s Mom. I also like the final scene between all the friends at the burger place set to “Semi Charmed Life” which is one of my favourite songs, just to throw that out there.

So this film works in comparison to other comedies like Due Date, Sex Drive and The Hangover in that the characters aren’t stock teen clichés and more importantly, they’re all likeable enough (except Stiffler, but it’s just great to see him get all his comeuppance). Not having the god awfully annoying Zack Galfianakis in it helps as well. I haven’t seen the sequels and I’ve been advised not to so I guess I won’t, unless anyone wants to recommend them to me? Well anyway, that’s me done for today and of course I will see you again. In the meantime, why don’t you follow me on Twitter and take the time to enjoy a nice warm apple pie?

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