Would you believe the directors responsible for the likes of Nutty Professor II, Twilight - New Moon, See This Movie, and Little Fockers could have been responsible for delivering one of the best comedies the 90's had to offer? I know, me either, but despite having what I would consider to be lackluster careers ever since, Chris and Paul Weitz are indeed the ones to thank for making American Pie. I could blame them for inspiring Hollywood to turn the franchise into an awful straight-to-DVD T&A expo, but I digress. Fact of the matter is, American Pie received a lot of praise upon its initial release and rightfully so. I remember laughing so hard in the theater that I wasn't sure if my pants were going to be dry after all was said and done. So, I certainly can't deny despite coming out mere months before the turn of the century, that this memorable comedy deserves its place amongst the memes of the 90's. That being said, I've seen a lot of enthusiasm on the internet for the release of this Blu-ray, to the point where I have to wonder if the power of nostalgia has taken too firm a grasp amongst the masses. Some have described this film as being a classic, iconic, original, and some even recall Stifler to be the funniest comedic character of all time. While I have much appreciation for American Pie and have fond memories of the first time I had seen it, I think much of the praise I've seen as of late has been an exercise in stretching the truth, or people merely fooling themselves.
I mean, original? That's a large compliment to pay to a film that's so generic at its core. American Pie is about a small group of frustrated high school guys that make a pact to lose their virginity before they graduate, and from there the script really just writes itself, does it not? You have all the usual character clichés - You have the confident guy that can't seal the deal with his trophy girlfriend, an arrogant jock that loves nothing more than partying and one night stands, which is contrasted, of course, by another athlete that would rather grow up and find true love, the self-proclaimed 'sophisticated' dude, and last but not least, your average teen male that's trying to find his place in the world, but ends up putting himself in more awkward situations than he'd care to remember. Mix them together, add a little sugar, pinch on the crust, throw it in the oven and, tadaaa! You just made American Pie, a predictable feature that ultimately revolves around gross out humor and sex, dances with themes of maturing into adulthood, and tip-toes around the love stories that act as the excuse for presenting us with these shenanigans in the first place. Yeah, I wouldn't say this film qualifies as 'original', not by a long shot.
I know it sounds like I'm coming down really hard on this film, but put the torches and pitchforks away - I'm merely trying to be objective here, and I doubt anyone else who's viewed this film objectively would disagree with me. It's just not an original film. However, what I'm absolutely not saying is that this is a bad movie, because it's not. American Pie is the kind of film that sounds like it would be a dud on paper, but the finished product is a little deeper and more engaging than you would expect it to be. I mean, the 90's had been filled with Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey flicks that focused more on the goof than they did the heart, and the Farrelly brothers were a key ingredient in keeping that hollow formula going. Hollywood was making a killing on cheap laughs that offered little to no context, and just when the genre desperately needed something to come along and break the mold, American Pie was there to fit the bill. That's the reason why this film is remembered by its fans so fondly over a decade after the fact. Not merely content in providing us with underage drinking parties, tits, extreme use of bodily fluids and depicting teens as party animals with no intelligence, American Pie actually set out to define its characters as people that we could relate to and ultimately care about, and what a relief that was. If you wanted to see teens depicted as actual human beings in the 90's, you had to turn to teen romance flicks like She's All That or 10 Things I Hate About You. Not that there's anything wrong with movies like that (I myself enjoyed them for what they were at the time), but they were clearly marketed for a female audience... but American Pie? It had something for everyone, and was even the perfect flick to see on date night.
Despite coming along and hitting all the right notes with as wide an audience as possible, that still doesn't make American Pie an iconic film, or even a 'classic'. These labels are thrown around casually nowadays, and why? Because anyone with an internet connection is using their writing to try and get you to think the same way that they do (no, the irony here isn't lost on me). 'Iconic' and 'classic' are words that add a bit of a 'wow factor' to any given point, but that doesn't make such a point any more true. Iconic can only be used for a very select handful of films, so let's just work on 'classic' and its reference to American Pie - When I think of a 'classic', one of the most important factors at play is the test of time, and honestly, I really don't think this film withstands that test very well. For one, the soundtrack dates the film a great deal. In hindsight, a traditional score would have helped to extend the accessibility of this film. This is the kind of movie that probably could have appealed to numerous generations if there weren't so many audible 'time stamps' all over the place, but I doubt that in 30 years people are going to be looking back on American Pie as fondly as they do today. As far as withstanding the test of time though, the biggest issue I found after revisiting this film is simply a matter of age - Now that I'm 30 years old, the whole high-school, get laid turned love story thing just doesn't really appeal to me anymore. It's not just American Pie, but other teen party flicks like Can't Hardly Wait have also lost their appeal with me over time. If I can't enjoy this film from teen to old age, I really don't see how a film like this can earn a title like 'classic'. Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Ben-Hur, Citizen Kane... now those are classics.
This is a good film that was made even better by the timing of its release, whether the creators of American Pie knew it at the time or not. But despite its merit as a film in 1999, the simple fact of the matter is that this Blu-ray comes 13 years after the fact and the film hasn't aged as well as I would have hoped. It's still funny and the characters still have a story worth telling, but certain elements of the film have lost the power of their initial punch. The likes of Jackass and South Park have desensitized me from this film's gross out humor, and the age barrier doesn't allow me to relate with these characters like I used to be able to. I know the concept of time may not affect everyone's viewing experience, so all I can really say is this - American Pie doesn't deserve the accolades it's been given very generously by its fans over the internet. With only a single decade under its belt, now is really the appropriate time to begin your assessment as to whether this film truly is a timeless piece of work or not. As far as this reviewer? I still had a great time and it was worth watching again for old time's sake, but this will probably end up being one of my last servings of Pie.
Some early screenshots posted on the internet left some in a tizzy, and although this transfer is inconsistent and far from perfect, American Pie's 1080p, AVC encoded transfer actually looks much better than expected. A big problem I had with the previous DVD releases had been poor contrast that left the overall presentation looking dim, but that's not an issue here. Black levels are strong throughout the entirety of the picture, although sometimes they're a little too strong and end up crushing outdoor night scenes a little. That being said, a majority of the picture doesn't take place outside at night, so it's not really that big a deal. On the opposite end of the spectrum, whites are also strong but like the black levels, aren't always consistent with the rest of the picture, as they tend to look rather hot during daytime sequences.
As far as the level of detail, it's not bad but there's definitely some inconsistency in this respect as well. There are plenty of shots that exhibit fine grain and offer an impressive amount of hair and facial texturing, but there are just as many shots that look like they've been smoothed over with some DNR (digital noise reduction). Now, the DNR isn't bad enough to cause smearing, but it does have a tendency to make skin textures look unnaturally smooth. It's a shame to see evidence of DNR on yet another Universal release (although it's not exactly a surprise), but at least there's evidence that Universal used a little restraint this time around and didn't eradicate film grain and detail entirely.
Other digital anomalies can be seen throughout, but there's nothing that's truly offensive to the eye - There's some minor artifacting that can be seen in the grain field when presented against a solid background, making the grain field looking a little noisy at times, but not excessively so. Edge enhancement is also seen from time to time, but I've seen far more offensive EE from other releases.
No, American Pie isn't perfect, but the picture is much brighter than the DVD and despite some DNR tampering by the studio, there's actually much more detail to go around and the amount of color saturation is truly impressive. Despite what seems like a negative breakdown of the picture as a whole, let me make it clear - This still bests the old DVD, and not just by a little. Really, American Pie's Blu-ray release blows the DVD out of the water and should be a decent upgrade for any fan of the film.
This 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track certainly gets the job done and easily bests the DVD, but it's not really that impressive. This is probably due to the mix more than anything though, as surround effects (such as at parties) hardly have pinpoint location and depth precision, and the use of the surrounds are just generally underwhelming as a whole. Despite the rockin' 90's music that gets used throughout the film, I found the music to sound a tad on the weak side and the LFE really didn't give any natural punch when it was required either. Dialogue is crisp and clear and there's really no audible compression issues that come across, but as I said, this mix leaves a lot to be desired, even for a comedy.
-American Pie Revealed - The Complete Story of All Three Comedies - Hosted by Eugene Levy, this over 3 and a half hours of behind-the-scenes info and footage for the original American Pie trilogy. There's interviews with cast and crew, cast auditions, outtakes and more, all compiled in a fully comprehensive package that truly details the trilogy and its entire production. Definitely an informative and fun watch for any fan. Furthermore, considering this is a really length documentary of sorts, you can choose from the American Pie Revealed menu which piece of the pie you'd like to have in a single sitting, choose a 'play all' function or even read an included FAQ.
-American Reunion - A Look Inside - This isn't really much of a 'look inside' the new Pie flick. Predictably, it's really just a self-promotional featurette that has some clips of the film intertwined with some 'pat on the back' interviews with cast and crew.
-Casting Tapes - The audition footage of Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, and Eddie Kaye Thomas.
-Spotlight on Location - This, like, the 'look inside' of the American Reunion, is just a self-promotional featurette of the original film, again featuring cast and crew interviews.
-From the Set - Photographic Montage with Director and Producer Comments - Interview excerpts with the director and producer over a photo montage of the film's production. It's really not that informative, and you'd be better off watching the Revealed documentary.
-Tonic "You Wanted More" Video
-Tonic Live Performance
-Feature Commentary with Director Paul Weitz, Producer Chris Weitz, Writer Adam Herz and Cast Members Jason Biggs, Sean William Scott and Eddie Kaye Thomas - Everyone on this commentary has a lot of fun and they throw out some fun tidbits about the film's production, but the entertaining atmosphere keep this track from being the truly informative track it could have been.
-100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters
American Pie hasn't withstood the test of time as well as I would have hoped, so I really don't think it can be considered an 'iconic' film or even a 'classic'. However, American Pie is still a funny and entertaining flick that will please the youth of today just as much as it did for the youth 13 years ago, but if you've grown from a 20-something to a 30-something over the last decade such as I have, you might find that American Pie is growing a little stale. As far as this Blu-ray release is concerned, the video is better than expected but leaves something to be desired, and the audio mix is kind of weak. The supplemental package isn't as impressive as it could have been, as a lot of the stuff seems to be promotional material, but the 3 and a half hour documentary more than makes up for it. Recommended.