"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. There are some serious laughs in "Pie", but they're a bit too few and far between to recommend a taste. Go rent "Slums Of Beverly Hills" instead to see a wonderful performance by "Pie" star Lyonne.
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.
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 little 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 oddly darker than it does in the theater, there's generally no other problems with this image such as marks on the print. Overall, it's certainly very good looking, but not the best ever seen from Universal.
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.
MENUS:: Nicely animated scenes set up like a computer screen, although the sub-menus aren't animated, they are easily navigated. Unfortunately, like all the other Universal Special Editions, you have to go back to the menu every time you want to go from the commentary to the actual film dialogue.
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", "Man On The Moon" and also, "Snow Falling On Cedars"(which has been delayed for over a year now, I believe.). All are in 5.1
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;
Final Thoughts: Fans of the movie will definitely enjoy, but otherwise, looking at this disc, it's not the most impressive Special Edition that Universal has ever produced. If you haven't seen the film, rent it first.