Universal // 1999 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Rob "Treg" Traegler (Retired) // December 10th, 1999
There's something about your first piece.
Hands down, this film is the Animal House of the '90s that we've waited nearly the entire decade for, and if Porky's was the Animal House of the '80s, then we've waited over twenty years.
American Pie is a blast. You really can't find any fault with this movie, it succeeds on every attempted level: as a gross-out comedy, a coming of age tale, or as a budding teen romance story. The ensemble cast is near perfect with breakout performances by many of the lead actors. As I read the cast bios, I couldn't believe how many of these actors listed American Pie as their first film.
Although this cast looks like they had a blast making this film, there's not a false note in the performances. The film is given additional credibility with the appearance of Eugene Levy (Waiting for Guffman (somebody tell me...why isn't this movie on DVD??), Armed and Dangerous (well, there's no rush on this one), and Almost Heroes (don't tempt me)). He plays the father of our somewhat main character Jim, nicely played by Jason Biggs in his first role. This film also has the intriguingly lovely Mena Suvari (American Beauty, Kiss the Girls, The Rage: Carrie 2) as Heather, the choir girl, who doesn't play as sexually in this film as she did in American Beauty, but she's really got something about her. Chris Klein (Election), who plays the role of Oz, the sentimental jock (now there's a contrast), is another newcomer who the camera absolutely loves. This disc tells you that he got his career by literally bumping into Election director Alexander Payne. Eddie Kaye Thomas (The Rage: Carrie 2) as Finch, does a mean, young Nicolas Cage, and Seann W. Scott is quite appropriately irritating as the Stiffmeister. Natasha Lyonne (The Slums of Beverly Hills, Everyone Says I Love You, Detroit Rock City), displays her acting chops as Jessica, the platonic friend of Finch, who actually leads to his downfall and Tara Reid (The Rage: Carrie 2...jeez, did they shoot these films on the same soundstage?) as Vicky, is a babe and a half who needs her man Tomas Ian Nicholas (Rookie of the Year) to say "I love you" before she'll sleep with him. Phew!
The plot of American Pie takes a back seat to the numerous joke set-ups of the movie, and there are plenty. Not that there isn't a plot; there are several subplots as a matter of fact, each one is involving in its own way. Remember Animal House? Same basic formula. A small group of male friends party hard, get into various high jinks scenarios, leave sometimes to explore their various subplots, and then regroup for more high jinks. I am so glad I got to see this film in the theater with a full house because there are jokes so crude in this film it had people standing up in their seats laughing and screaming, "Oh!!" They couldn't believe the makers of this film went 'there'. That's what's great about this film; it goes where you want it to go. So many films today don't think about their audience; they do what they want and go where they want. Just as you're saying to yourself, "No...they're not going to go 'there,'" they go there. It's so refreshing. Credit has to go to writer Adam Herz and first time filmmaker brothers Jim and Paul Weitz.
Universal is cranking out one kicking special edition after another. This DVD release of American Pie is available in rated and unrated special editions and each are packed with extras. This unrated edition is a bit more raunchy than the film that I saw in the theater. For example, Jim gets much more familiar with the titular pie. There are more hardcore images shown from the legendary 'book' and we get to see more of the foreign exchange student Nadia played by Shannon Elizabeth. The commentary track is nearly as funny as the film and features Paul and Jim Weitz, writer Herz, and cast members Jason Biggs, Seann W. Scott and Eddie Kaye Thomas. It's exactly what you want from a commentary track: inside laughs, kidding among the participants and revealing anecdotes about the film. The disc also includes humorous outtakes, music highlights, classic quotes, cast and filmmaker bios, a noteworthy featurette, a soundtrack presentation ($), DVD-Rom features and there's a booklet! On top of all this, Universal is dropping their special edition prices!! This soon-to-be classic is available in either version for $26.98! Good call, Universal, I like the way you think.
Video and audio quality are of typical Universal quality, top shelf. This studio really is DVD friendly. I just wish they would now go back and deliver widescreen special editions of earlier full frame debacles like The Sting and The Jerk. Video quality on this film, however, looks so good that it points out the fact that the studio invested little money in this film by making it clearly evident that the producers didn't always have the lighting and/or equipment needed to perfect some shots, but we're not looking for Vlimos Zsigmond on a film like this. Audio quality is standard for a soundtrack heavy film like this one; we're not really pining for surround effects on a film like American Pie.
If you're of the faint of heart, sexophobic (I made that term up, you like it?) or deeply religous, this film will offend you in ways you never knew were possible. Also, I think the tag line "There's something about your first piece" is a direct reference to this film's There's Something About Mary status.
Bravo Universal, on once again listening to the people (and us here at DVD Verdict). Your prices are coming down (which is a good sign considering the recent Disney scare of '99) and your product quality keeps going up. American Pie is a must purchase for comedy and DVD fans everywhere.
A superb film. A superb special edition DVD. Not only is Universal acquitted, I think they should get a year off for good behavior. But that one's going to have to go through Chief Judge McGinnis. (Agreed. -CJM)
Review content copyright © 1999 Rob "Treg" Traegler; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Filmmaker and Cast Audio Commentary
* Spotlight On Location (featurette)
* Universal Records Soundtrack Presentation
* Music Highlights
* Classic Quotes Directory
* Production Notes
* Cast and Filmmakers Bios
* Theatrical Trailer
* Universal Showcase
* DVD-Rom features
* Bomis - American Pie Ring