Directed by: Paul Weitz
Written by: Adam Herz
Starring: Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Alyson Hannigan, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas
Sexual aspirations and the male high school experiences go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s become something so ingrained into their thinking especially in a time where hormones rise and self-control loosens its grip. Coming from the raunchy 80s films, American Pie set a new standard for what teen sex comedies and gross-out humor could look like and set the foundation of what these films would strive to achieve heading into a new millennium.
With high school coming to a close and unfortunately still a virgin, Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) and his other friends set their sights on hopefully having sex at prom. With this goal, they each attempt to find a way to have sex and learn some lessons along the way.
The impact of American Pie cannot be understated because of the way it displayed the sexual experience in high school and has influenced many who grew up in that era. It would be even better if the film was great, but the product we received does just fine. Rewatching it felt like a reminder of just how juvenile teenage boys could be and how much sex connects to their ego and self-worth. That idea ultimately drives the story and becomes the central conflict each of these characters battle throughout the story.
It reframes the sexual experience as something that needs to be done rather than doing it for the actual pleasure involved. Jim has a strong line where he mentions that the pressure to reach this milestone has made him hate the actual act itself. It speaks volumes as to what these boys value and how society continues to push this standard that only makes others feel like they’re less than if they fail to measure up. While many sequences in the film come from fantasy island, like when Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) is left alone in Jim’s room, the screenwriters really capture what conversations of guys of that age revolve around. If it does not include sex, then it has to do with how it should be about sex. It’s all-consuming that having a conversation with someone else that does not revolve around sex feels like a cathartic reprieve. It proves to be the hidden layer within a story trying its hardest to be edgy and provocative.
I found it fascinating that such a young crop of talents found their footing in this film in small parts but have made a name for themselves ever since. A prime example being John Cho, who gets referred to as the “Milf guy.” Natasha Lyonne also has some good scenes where she displays the comedic talent she would refine and perfect in future roles. Eugene Levy, of course, brought the comedic gold and does not fail to deliver once again.
Watching this film again as an adult surprised me because the story had much more heart than I remembered it having. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some reprehensible things that happen in the story, but these characters truly aren’t a bunch of degenerates much like in the spin-off Band Camp. Each of them front like all they want is sex but they each have the moment where they realize what it means to them and its impact on their way of thinking. It comes down to the cast and how they portray their characters. Sure, it gave rise to a character like Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott) but the other characters have that insecurity that comes with being a teenager and posing to have this confidence when it’s definitely severely lacking.
The comedy lands more times than it doesn’t and the conclusion wraps up everything very nicely for the story. This film does not reach the stratosphere of greatness, but it gets the job done in telling this story and actually creating characters worth rooting for, despite their major flaws. It surprisingly ages better than the other films in its series and it’s easy to see why.