"American Pie" is a film that, for use of a better phrase, wants to have it's pie and eat it, too. It transitions from raunchy teen comedy to a rather moralistic last act, but even in trying to have these characters learn lessons, they still continue on the hunt for that piece of the pie.
It's another teen film, only this one sets its sights on being "different" from the pack of teen films by pushing the R-rating to the limits. Buzz on the film has been promoting the film's "Something About Mary" humor, but strangely, I felt the film was oddly tame. The plot revolves around four high school seniors who make a pact that they must lose their virginity by the final hours before they graduate. I don't have a problem with a teen comedy trying to have a little fun, but that's the problem: a lot of "Pie" begins to feel a little long; there are moments of pure hilarity that had me laughing incredibly hard, such as an internet-based incident, but between scenes like that, the film feels like it's searching for a way to take the story, while I was left searching for a reason to care about these characters. The females seem smart, worldly, and still awkward about adolesence, but sweetly so. The men in this film, for the most part, are simply macho jerks. Towards the end, we are lead to believe that they've learned about love, but it seems rather false that they've actually learned a thing.
If anything, the girls are the most appealing part of the film. Tara Reid, who is a lovely actress, has a warmth about her as well as an element of sexiness. Natasha Lyonne(of the much better coming-of-age film, "Slums Of Beverly Hills") adds an element of sass and class to the proceedings and newcomer Mina Suvari is a strong presence as Heather. The female characters are sweet, but unmemorable- they're not given a chance to really become fully realized characters.
As I said previously, I find nothing wrong with a comedy like this having a little raunchy fun. "Austin Powers 2" had it a couple of weeks ago; "South Park" had it the weekend before this one. But there was something about both of those films that this one lacks: joy. Those comedies danced in their foul language. "South Park" even sung about it. "American Pie" may contain the foul language of those films, but it's curiously lacking in that fun spark of energy that those other two films contained. Maybe it's also due to the fact that "Pie" seems to fall back to the same brand of comedy time and time again: simply humiliating the characters, or, more specificially, the main character, Jim. Sometimes we laugh along, but for the most part, I cringed in embarassment. The foul language seems seperated from the body of the film- it's an outside layer, but on the inside, what you'll find as the filling in this "Pie" is the usual teen plot that we've seen this year, right down to the ending at the Prom.
There are some funny moments in "Pie", especially that scene I mentioned earlier involving the internet, but these scenes simply seem like they are few and far between. I would have seriously liked to have seen the filmmakers push the energy level higher because even though it's only 96 minutes, it still feels a little slow. The other "sexy" teen film this year, "Cruel Intentions" worked better than this film. It had a stronger edge, a wit, characters who were more memorable and even had moments of humor. This film tries to be shocking, but really, what's shocking anymore? It's interesting to see the limits consistently being raised during the past few years, from "Clerks" to "Something About Mary" to "Austin Powers 2" to "South Park". "South Park" made me laugh not only because there were elements of smart satire in the layers underneath, but because it genuinely took a fun, demented glee to being so "naughty". "American Pie" tries to shock laughs from the audience and it feels too predictable and I think the ad campaign is at serious fault for that. Most of the "shocking" moments in "Pie" have been ruined by the film's trailer.
This is also the "Unrated" edition of the movie(there is also an R-rated DVD version) that shows what got cut out of the movie to attain an R-rating. In my personal opinion, the Unrated edition has better cover art as well.
(Film Review Written Summer 1999)
VIDEO: There's an odd little problem that I found in this transfer, but other than that, I was fairly pleased with how this image looked throughout the movie. Images are clear and crisp, but bright...well, they're not exaactly bright. I was suprised to see while watching it that this image looks a bit dark, and it's especially noticable in the party and a few other indoor scenes. It's not awful, but I found it noticably darker than how I remember it in the movie theater. Colors are strong and bold; nicely saturated with no color bleeding. Flesh tones are generally accurate and natural as well.
Besides the fact that some of the film looks a little strangely darker than it does in the theater, there are a few other minor problems - like some slight marks and speckles on the print used, but no pixelation and only a little edge enhancement. Overall, it's certainly decent looking, but definitely not the best effort ever seen from Universal. This new ultimate edition uses the same exact transfer; the picture still looks on the dark side - especially during a few specific sequences like the party early on - but overall this isn't a bad presentation, it just remains a rather average looking one that suffers from a few problems. It would have been nice if Universal had tried to improve it for this Ultimate Edition, though. A full-frame edition is also included on disc two.
SOUND: Like almost every other comedy out there, the audio department for this film is pretty basic. Like every other teen comedy out there, the main highlight of the audio (or maybe not, depending on your taste in music) is the alternative rock songs that populate the soundtrack. Again, like on other films such as "10 Things I Hate About You", the songs sound excellent here, clear with a fine amount of bass. Surrounds really aren't put to much use at all, nor do they really need to be. Dialogue's clear and clean.
The Ultimate Edition presents the film with both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 versions; neither sounded particularly impressive, although the DTS added a slight additional bit of clarity and detail when the music entered the picture.
MENUS:: Menus are very nicely animated with the same "Computer" background as the original edition. The packaging is a bit of a mistake from Universal. They've used the same clear plastic packaging that the "Sex and the City" season one disc used. Although there's a lot of possibilities with the design and art on a case like this, there's also the fact that these attract fingerprints well and can get scratched. The discs also seem to have a greater chance of falling out during shipment.
EXTRAS: The extras listed below are all on the disc with the widescreen edition. I'd have thought they (they being Universal) would have simply put the same features on the second disc, but the only features that show up on that disc are the commentary, music highlights, quotes, poster concepts, production notes, bios and recommendations.
Commentary: This is a commentary from directors Paul and Chris Weitz, writer Adam Herz and actors Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott. It's generally a very funny commentary and geared more towards being an entertaining talk about stories from the set, with a few technical details occasionally thrown in. Aside from stories about what happened on-set, there is also some discussion of what it was like to work with the various actors. Like the movie itself, some of the commentary is funny and interesting and some of it is a little flat. It would have been nice to have heard from some of the actresses (or even better, to have had a female perspective from all the girls of the movie on a different track), but oh well.
Outtakes: Some slightly funny outtakes of the actors forgetting their lines or improving scenes. There's not that many scenes included, unfortunately.
Trailers: Trailers for "American Pie" and the teaser for (not the full theatrical trailer that I think is currently running w/"Scary Movie 2") "American Pie 2" (2.0). A trailer for "Snow Falling On Cedars" was included with the original edition, but that's not included here. (Which is kinda good, because I always thought it was a rather odd inclusion on a disc for "American Pie" anyways.) The "Snow" trailer and "Man On The Moon" trailer don't return here, but the The Blues Brothers, Animal House and American Graffiti trailers pop up on the second disc in the recommendations section.
Also: A very funny and fairly decent in length featurette that has some nice interviews and behind-the-scenes footage; music video from the band Tonic; the ability to jump to scenes with "classic quotes"; DVD-ROM materials with some behind-the-scenes material.
Deleted Scenes: New to this Ultimate Edition is about 5 1/2 minutes or so of deleted scenes, presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. There's some funny extensions of scenes (a warning before the laxative attack and a scene with Stiffler being hilarously vicious to the point where the fil mmakers probably considered it too mean. Yet, there's a way that Seann William Scott spits out the lines as the character that makes even the meanest things amusing.)
Poster Gallery: A rather massive poster gallery with many different concepts for the poster art - including quite a few that include the original "Great Falls" title (the movie was originally called both "Great Falls" and "East Great Falls High"). There are some concepts included that would have worked better, in my opinion, than the one they finally ended up with, but there are also some that were pretty lame.
Photo Montage: This is an audio interview with the Weitz brothers, with on-screen production photos going by. They aren't talking specifically about what's in the photos, just the production in general. The photos are there just for something to look at while they're speaking.
American Pie 2 Preview: If you didn't get enough "AP2" from the trailer on the disc, here's a...longer trailer. A short promotional featurette that lasts a few minutes, it offers clips in-between some interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
Tonic Live Performance: The band Tonic, live in Los Angeles, performing "Mean to Me" and "Future Says Run". Interviews with the band run between the songs.
Moviecash Ticket: The disc will reportedly contain a moviecash ticket that can be redeemed for a ticket to see "American Pie 2" when it comes to theaters. My review copy did not contain one, but it is supposed to be included with these "Ultimate Editions". If the moviecash ticket is, in fact, included I can see that many who already own the original edition will probably pick up this new edition for the discs and the ticket and e-bay their older copy.
Final Thoughts: If you don't already have "American Pie", this is certainly the disc (er, set) to get. If you do, though there's really not that much to warrant a repurchase (unless you e-bay the old one and then grab the new one) since the video quality is the same, the audio isn't much improved with DTS and there really aren't too many new features.