American Pie (Chris Weitz, 1999)

Still, for Mostly Unsure

*This was originally published on 6th May 2010 but I have edited it a little and written new posts for American Pie 2 and American Pie: The Wedding to follow this week so let’s start from the first piece…

“Well, they’re safer than a tube sock…”

Introduction

I am going through a phase of weeding out the unneccessary DVD’s in my collection. In my opinion, everyone has a DVD pile at their house its not about how many DVD’s you own – its what you own (this sentiment eventually led to the A-Z posts). If you only have a stash of the free DVDs that came with the newspaper or have too many teenage rom-coms, your film-knowledge credability takes a little blow. As a film fan, your film collection represents you. What you stand for – what you aim to understand, etc.

Fact is, with American Pie I can vividly remember wanting to watch it. I remember first watching it post-house party – a house party Mum and Dad shouldn’t have known about, but the did find out about it because of so many kitchen appliances being broken. My best friend – and fellow blogger Pete, you must remember this party. Legendary.

It was the early days of the DVD and, as one of the first ten or twenty I owned, I watched and rewatched it many times (certain sequences many, many times … but thats private and, as a teenager at the time, its allowed). But now, I look at my ‘threesome’ boxset and have to decide. Should it stay or should it go? I have never watched anything further than the third American Pie movie – American Pie: The Wedding. So, do I wait until I care enough to be a completist and watch the others (will I really watch them?) or, even await, the potential 2012 film: reuniting the original cast for American Pie 4?

Jim and his sock

The film primarily follows one character – Jim. Yes, we know all about his buddies, but we care about Jim. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that from a casting point of view we do have an ensemble cast all with the same ‘goal’. Akin to ‘Porkys’ they plan to lose their virginity. The thing about American Pie for me and my buddies is that we all associated ourselves with the different characters. The sports-like dude, the clever-but-clearly-a-geek dude, the friend-who-has-a-steady-girlfriend and then the middle-of-the-road-one with weird parents. I would assume I was that one with weird parents. Not to mention the parties we went to were not too unlike Stiflers … but with less sex. For me. Chances are that at these parties, behind the dark corners, dark deeds took place … which began in the rumour mill Monday morning in college.

The structure of the film is interesting as all the character have an anti-climax two-thirds into the film. So Finch’s plan to build a reputation fails when he shits in a girls toilet, Jim loses Nadia by breaking some type of surveillance law. I’m sure, if you did what Jim did yourself you wouldn’t be praised by anyone – you’d be simply called a perv. Kevin finds the bible but blows his chances of nookie by shouting a little too loud (in honesty, he rectifies this pretty quick…) and then the La Crosse fella played by Chris Klein, Oz, loses his girl when he appears to be mocking her (well, Stifler was mocking her, La Crosse man was merely a bystander).

A Moral Compass

Obviously, a film like this needs a moral compass. The characters have to have some sex but they can only do this by changing their attitude to it. Jim gets sick of the bet – happy to settle for minx-in-disguise Alyson Hannigan (“This one time at band camp…”). Kevin and Vicky (Tara Reid), on their separate struggle to have sex ‘for love’. Then they split up. Oz bails on his sporting skills to be in the choir and revealing his passion may actually be singing and he, turns out, is ‘actually’ in love. And – very brave for a first time I think – he loses his virginity outside in what appears to be a very public cabin. Lastly, what appears to be quite a strange occurence is Finch and Stiflers Mom. Finch’s moral compass doesn’t really change… he is just abused.

Fact is, for a teenager…

The film is quite explicit – in a comedic manner and in a jovial tone, but there is plenty of nudity and conversations about ‘stuff’ many people would find quite offensive. The film discusses sex positions and the nature of sperm (seen sitting in a beer). Its obviously all in jest – all merely comedy – but it surely informs teenagers. I know when I was a teenager, I didn’t know too much so the information about positions and stuff did help me understand a little more. In a more interesting way, deeper issues of desperation and pressure is also raised. The idea that Jim’s completely embarressing situation ‘came too soon’ and, again, shows that this small faux-pars in your teenage years aren’t such a big deal. Even the involvement of your parents in your personal life – these are all relatable and make light of a time in a teenagers life that can be incredible awkward. It even showed the pain of sex during the first time as Vicky and Kev do the deed. Yes, this is balanced out by the nympho Jim has to deal with and we don’t see Oz and Heather, but for anyone who is worried a little about these situations, the actual reveal of a certain element of truth should put them at ease.

I do love the film, but I am in two minds. I have grown out of these films, but I watched it so many times and I adore the characters. It even informed my music taste – introducing me to Bic Runga and her beautiful song ‘Sway’ and it made me take Blink 182 a little seriously (not much, just one song: Mutt). I think the important role the film – and the two sequels – played in my life is something I will cherish, and is the reason I am keen to re-watch all these films. There are problems (“Do you know Chris Finch?” to a classmate they have studied with for a whole year!) but I think it is a much better film than the average teenage-comedy and it has great heart. Not to mention Eugene Levy scene-stealing every single sequence he is involved in.

Wait a sec’ – its eleven years old! F*** me. I am old.

Tomorrow, we continue with American Pie 2 … 

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10 comments

  1. I say keep the first one (I honestly think it's a teen comedy classic) but ditch the other two. The second one was an ok sequel, but doesn't hold up over the years. And American Wedding was just shit. Ultimately it's your call though.

  2. @Jaccstev – I remember, the off-shoot of this was that 'Road Trip' movie which was alright I guess. But, I have yet to watch 'Porkys' to compare.

    @Rachel – Its a boxset – its all or nothing. Difficult. Writing this has made me want to revisit them so …

  3. I would say keep them. American Pie is, I think, one of the most influential films of the last 20 years. Don't get me wrong — that does not mean it is one of the best. But it hit the zeitgeist in just such a way that it opened up whole new avenues for mainstream comedy, which I think was a good thing. Films like this are worth owning if only for their place in cinematic history, and I honestly think American Pie will be remembered as a seminal film — or perhaps a semenal film — ha ha.

    I guess you probably should have just bought the one movie in the first place, but there's nothing you can do about that now.

    As for those straight-to-video sequels … I don't think even the most dedicated completist needs to seek those out. I haven't seen any, but I cry each time I see a new one on the video shelves, and recognize that Eugene Levy has slummed enough for a paycheck to appear in each one. I can only imagine what convoluted plots they need to come up with so that he keeps appearing in each movie. Do those movies really have ANYTHING to do with the original story?

  4. But Vance, the original story continues in a potential Part 4!! (see the link towards the top)…

    Would you be in the queue, I think I probably will be.

    [Currently, I have postponed the rejection of American Pie 'threesome'… il watch again all three and re-evaluated)

  5. Grown out of them??! No!! I bought the 1-6 box a few weeks ago, the first 2 still make me laugh. But then maybe I never grew up. The 4th 'film' onwards are a travesty and shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as the original, frankly. Don't sell em, I know you'd regret it!!!

    Comment Courtesy of Anonymous Tom.

  6. @Dezmond – ha ha, I adjusted the post to be a bit less revealing but its all in good taste!

    @Tom – I won't sell them now I've rewatched them, that's for sure. I'd be really interested in your take on the four spin-off's. What about them links to the original three? other than Levy, who else makes cameos?

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