'American Pie': THR's 1999 Review
On July 9, 1999, Universal released the R-rated teen comedy American Pie in theaters, where it would go on to gross $235 million worldwide and kickstart a franchise. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below.
This American Pie is the kind Mom never baked. A raucous, ribald teen sex comedy, the film should score with its target audience. But an R-rating might cut down on box office take if NATO is serious about policing the rating code. In any event, the film is mostly stale pie for anyone older than 25.
Neophyte filmmaker brothers Chris and Paul Weitz, the producer and director, respectively, occasionally try on the Farrelly brothers' mantle of gross-out humor. But either you have the imagination for this kind of physical comedy, or you don't. The Weitz brothers don't. As a result, American Pie plays like a pale imitation of movies such as Dumb and Dumber and Porky's, which in their peculiar way were classics of testosterone comedy.
Few films are clearer, however, about the goals of their leading male characters. In Adam Herz's script, a quartet of high school seniors in a medium-sized Michigan town are desperate to get laid. This is one final exam that, if flunked, makes college seem like an arid wilderness.
The friends make a pact to accomplish this goal before graduation. Each sets about the task in his own inimitable way.
Jim (Jason Biggs), looking and acting a bit like Adam Sandler, suffers a hilarious "date" with a Czech exchange student (Shannon Elizabeth) that is accidentally broadcast online to the entire community. He then settles on hyperactive band member Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), largely because she appears to be the only one in town who didn't witness his Czech fiasco.
Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) has a girlfriend, Vicky (Tara Reid), but has failed to get further than "third base" with her. Oz (Chris Klein) tries working on his sensitivity to woo his choral partner Heather (Mena Suvari). Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) floats rumors about his sexual prowess and equipment in hopes that advertising will do the trick. Meanwhile, Jessica (Natasha Lyonne) dispenses more advice than a fortune cookie factory.
Cliches abound in every plot line, but, interestingly, the payoffs are genuinely funny in two instances and somewhat poignant in the other two. This film saves its best moments for last.
American Pie has a likable cast, but the actors appear throttled back by a pedestrian script and direction. Consequently, one winds up liking the film more than it deserves because of the gameness of its attractive cast.
While guys are the central figures, it's nice to see women's roles given enough weight so that they are characters rather than sex objects. Their yearnings aren't any different than the guys'; they just come off a bit smarter.
Technical credits are not much better than a Melrose Place episode. — Kirk Honeycutt, originally published June 25, 1999.