12. American Pie

Smiley Rating:

If Porky’s (Bob Clark, 1982) date-raped The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967) and they had babies, American Pie (Paul Weitz, 1999) would be the plaid wearing, socially awkward, perverted, 17-year-old son, who lacks self confidence, receives middling to average grades, and wants nothing more than to lose his virginity.  On top of that, he masturbates too much, he is humiliated day in and day out, and he displays absolutely zero tact when it comes to communicating with the opposite sex.  Luckily, he makes us laugh.

Yes, indeed, American Pie makes us laugh.  We laugh because it’s shocking.  We laugh because it’s gross.  And most of all, we laugh because it’s awkward.   You know, like, the awkwardness of losing one’s virginity or asking someone to prom.  This universal sentiment of humility is expressed most effectively in the one-on-one scenes between father (Eugene Levy) and son (Jason Biggs).  In these scenes, these two guys are completely and utterly inept at communicating with each other about sex, and the result is seat-squirming hilarity.  For a moment, I wonder if women (mothers/daughters) have the same sort of communicative issues, but my wonderment ends quickly as I imagine these early sex-talks between parent and child are awkward for all involved, regardless of gender.  I suppose this sort of “prudeness” is a cultural thing, rather than a gender thing.  That being said, I just realized that maybe these scenes were the most effective purely because Eugene Levy and Jason Biggs are by far the most superior actors in the movie, and therefore have the best comedic chemistry.

Conversely, the biggest flaw in American Pie is that nothing is really at stake.  Except for maybe a moment of humiliation or a slight strike against the ego, these characters seem to have nothing to lose… except for their virginity.  Perhaps something as simple as a small money wager would have increased the suspense, but when considering the galore of quotable lines, the satisfying conclusion, and the handful of outrageous iconic moments, I’d say this flaw is minimal and worth over-looking.

I’ll end with an observation:  I was a horny 16-year-old going on 17 when this movie was first released, so naturally, American Pie spoke to me.  I’ve seen it many times since then, and while it is still enjoyable, I can’t honestly say that it gets better with age.  Unlike sex, the first time was hands down the most entertaining.  Which brings me to the original tagline, a line that speaks to why this film in particular was successful and also the reason why I believe the sequels to this franchise have all but completely failed.  That is, “There’s something about your first piece.”  Yes.  There most certainly is.

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About kaneseligsohn

I'm Kane, a screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles. View all posts by kaneseligsohn

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