erik lundegaard

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American Pie (1999)

American Pie recreates some of the most painful moments of adolescence you never had. It's rarely laugh-out-loud funny — only Eugene Levy really cracked me up — but it's not witless. There's the high school band girl who ends all of her sentences with question marks — a female vocal glitch that has generally been ignored by the movies. At another point, Oz, the sensitive jock, tells his friends about women: "All you gotta do is ask them a lot of questions and listen to what they say and shit." To which Stifler, the loutish jock, looks both perplexed and disgusted. "I don't know, man. That sounds like a lot of work!"

Written by:
Adam Herz

Directed by:
Paul Weitz

Starring:
Jason Biggs
Shannon Elizabeth
Natasha Lyonne
Tara Reid
Alyson Hannigan
Chris Klein
Thomas Ian Nicholas
Mena Suvari
Eugene Levy

The plot: four high school seniors, virgins all, make a pact to lose their virginity before they graduate. Kevin has a long-standing girlfriend who is wary of the act, but who may be persuaded if his sexual expertise increases. Oz, who should have girls coming out of the woodwork, decides to join the high school chorus to meet them. Finch, in the best scheme of the bunch, pays another girl to spread rumors about how good he is in the sack. Jim, meanwhile, flails about pathetically. Enamored of Nadia, an exchange student, he sets up an internet link that will show Nadia changing clothes in his bedroom (she's come over to study). Given the opportunity with her, however, he fails — or succeeds too quickly — twice. He is also forced to endure a father-son sex talk replete with pornography. "You see the detail they go into in this picture," his father tells him as they gaze at a close-up of female genitalia. "It almost looks like a tropical plant or something. Underwater." Eugene Levy's mix of parental uncomfortableness and determination is marvelous.

Of course success for the boys arrives only when they are no longer trying to succeed. The target is hit only when they aren't aiming for it. An interesting mix of Zen philosophy and Hollywood necessity.

American Pie is sort of the Diner of horny teen flicks, but in the end it's still a horny teen flick. The most interesting aspect of the film is not the fucking-the-apple-pie scene, which everyone commented on, but the fact that these four male friends actually talk to one another about sex. Not bragging either. They admit their vulnerabilities. Certain outsiders make them feel bad (Stifler, Sherman) but the core group of friends actually nurture one another. In my high school days you'd sooner cut out your tongue than admit you were a virgin. Have things changed? It's a nice thought, but as unlikely as getting a beautiful exchange student to strip in your bedroom.

—December 30, 1999

© 1999 Erik Lundegaard