- Street Date:
- March 13th, 2012
- Reviewed by:
- Nate Boss
- Review Date: 1
- March 13th, 2012
- Movie Release Year:
- 95 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
Portions of this review appear in our coverage of the 'American Pie' German import review.
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
After viewing 'Wild Cherry' a while back, I decided I needed something to wash the taste out of my mouth (and/or mind), and decided the best way to do so would be to see the film it so blatantly wanted to be: 'American Pie.' The debut of the Weitz brothers, this teen coming of age/gross out comedy went on to spawn two direct sequels and four direct-to-video spin-offs, and has made a considerable sum of money, with the trilogy costing less than $100 million to make, earning over seven times that in worldwide box office, let alone home video purchases, pay-per-view buys, and television royalties.
Teenage boys trying to lose their virginity is nothing new to cinema, or life in general. It's something most guys all remember, those failed conquests, the pressure, the awkwardness of it all around those who are sexually active. Such is the life for four East Great Falls locals (Jason Biggs as Jim, Thomas Ian Nicholas as Kevin, Chris Klein as Chris/"Oz," and Eddie Kaye Thomas as Paul/Finch), who are all at different states of relationship existence, frustrated at their predicaments so much so that they make a pact after discovering a peer that they look down on lost his virginity before they did: before graduation, each and every one of them is going to get laid! If only they thought of that Freshman year, it wouldn't have been so difficult, but ah well. As the guys try to score on the beautiful gals around every corner (including Alyson Hannigan, Shannon Elizabeth, Tara Reid, Natasha Lyonne, and Mena Suvari), they discover their desperate focus on having sex didn't help their chances.
'American Pie' isn't a spectacular film; never was, never will be. It has some amazingly wooden or annoying performances, to be sure, alongside some questionable side plots occupying valuable runtime. It makes up for that in spades, though, with its strengths. The four guys are all very likable and relatable, with contrasting personalities and their own sets of limitations that make them much more relatable than many similar cinematic characters. The world it exists in is believable, with understandable parental interactions, peer pressure, and the unlimited and untapped sex drives of guys looking for their first. The fact that all four friends are in the same boat is a stretch, especially considering the climax of the film (get it? Climax? Oh, nevermind...), but it's easy to genuinely care for the majority of the cast, as each and every lead character has fathomable traits and life experiences putting them where they are.
The cast isn't one where looking back, twelve years later, it's amazing they were all together, but it's not a bad collection of young talent, either. Biggs, taking on a very risky role, has his breakout performance as the socially awkward lovable loser type, while Klein plays the part he was born to play: a bulky high school jock, one he also played in 'Election.' Nicholas can be a bit frustrating, as the "leader" of the group, partially due to the writing of the character, but also due to the quality of the performance, the distracting facial expressions, while Thomas is a bit out of his league the first time around as Finch, with an intentionally dry performance that can seem forced. Eugene Levy had a career resurrection as Jim's unnamed dad, stealing scene after scene with his spot-on facial expressions and physical acting, and Seann William Scott, making his feature film debut, proved why he's such a bankable comedic talent with his sexed up spoiled jock/bully. The girls are somewhat secondary in the story, despite being the subjects of so much longing, so the lack of breakout depictions isn't that troubling. In fact, it's a good thing the male actors did such a good job, since the gals, well, yikes. Suvari is an absolute disaster, with troubled line readings and a complete lack of believability, while Reid, bless her heart, is more known for her franken-boobies than her acting talents for a reason...and that reason is she's quite horrible. There's a reason Lyonne didn't make it big, and her arrest wasn't it. Hannigan is in the film too little this first installment to comment on her performance (she was given an awfully one dimension character), and Elizabeth? Well...we all love that one scene, so she gets a pass, even if her accent doesn't.
'American Pie' has aged fairly well for a film of its genre, as it is mostly conceivable today (though the lack of cell phones is the big giveaway), and the jokes, even with tons of viewings, they're still sometimes quite funny. Heck, if anything, the background gags are the best, the gags that setup the others, like the fake porn dialogue in the beginning ("Oh yeah, baby, I'm bone smuggling!"), or the background characters at the first party. The film has a brisk pace, with the only slow moments of the film being the ones that are the big payoffs; as such, they're not so much noticeable as they are appreciable little pauses. It's always tough hearing Klein and Suvari sing, and the entire plot point of choir class makes no sense, but as is the case with any comedy, some moments click with some audiences, some don't. This is a film that's honest, and fun, partially due to the lack of a real cruel element that could have happened at any time. Instead, the mood is always light, embarrassment is overcome and not lingered on, and characters grow. Alright, they don't mature one bit from beginning to end, but their coming of age story is still noticeable with their rites of passage. 'American Pie' may feel like an adolescent fantasy, and maybe it is, but it's warm and fuzzy, nostalgic to adults or relevant to teens, a fairly even, positive gross out film that hits almost all of the genre staples. There's a reason people still enjoy this film, twelve years later.
The Disc: Vital Stats
All three films in the original 'American Pie' trilogy come to Blu-ray on Region free BD50 discs, housed in non-cut-out eco-cases, beneath attractive slipcovers that replicate the artwork beneath, with blue spines instead of plain white. The BD-Live on this disc is solely used to load two random pre-menu trailers. On three loads of this particular disc, I got the trailer for 'American Reunion' to appear twice out of the six trailers, with previews for other films, or even Universal's 100th anniversary showing up.
A major problem with this disc is the way Universal is not using a menu before disc play. While the film defaults to the unrated cut of the film, if you are watching extras, you're in for a pain in the ass. Even if you pause the film and select an extra, when it's complete, the film resumes. There's no way around this, no way to get to a top menu. Considering the amount of extras found on these three discs, it's just obnoxious.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The American release of 'American Pie' bests the German import handily in the video department. Sadly, it isn't all that great, despite being the superior disc.
Presented in 1080p using the AVC-MPEG-4 encode, this disc doesn't appear to have been given much thought, or tender loving care before its Blu-ray release. Skin tones can be the disc's biggest concerns, as they're jaundiced, then clear, then overly warm, then pale, and back and forth throughout. Detail levels are also inconsistent, never quite peaking or popping, but middling around before dipping from time to time. This transfer has crush concerns (check out the top of Kevin's head, any time, for a prime example), but this anomaly is nowhere near as blatant or distracting as on the import release. Noise can spike from time to time, textures are rarely present, and dirt and debris are a little too ever-present for my tastes, particularly the last shot, which spikes notably.
Stray hairs are not in abundance, and the most obvious ones, due to Chris Klein's haircut, can be noticeable mostly because of their souped up, exaggerated edges. The shot in the final lacrosse game, his one big loose strand is so over defined that one can't help but laugh. It's one of the biggest halos I've seen on Blu-ray! For the most part, the other instances of edge enhancement aren't all that significant or eye-catching, just little bits and pieces. Faces don't always exhibit strong detail or character, and often look a little glazed. They clear up near the end of the film, just in time to see a peach fuzz 'stache on a certain band geek. Want more concerns? Natasha Lyonne's hair often blurs, as any slight movement makes her hair ill-defined, combining with often smoothed, feature-free faces to leave me to sadly say that DNR has been applied, and although it isn't dreadfully over the top, it is quite noticeable.
This disc didn't inspire me to write a positive review. In fact, the only thing it inspired me to do was to go back and dock the German disc even further. A middling catalog dump, with little regard to quality, makes this film look twice its age. Shameful.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The audio for 'American Pie' is a great step up from the DVD releases, even the German import, now presented in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.
Despite some occasional blending, where dialogue gets a little lost behind excessive ambient noise, or the occasionally blunt, forceful line reading, this is a pretty darned clear and clean track. The rears start out really soft, with only the tiniest music leak, but once we get to Stifler's party, it opens up the full room and the random effects and spread don't stop. There's believable activity from all angles, often matching the activity on screen, rarely missing a beat, and while some lines localize a little poorly (the background interruption of "you smell like a yeti!" most noticeably being far too loud and out of place), the film sounds quite active, far beyond similar films from the era. There's no bass to speak of in this first film in the series, and only the slightest pops in volume keep this from being a draggingly generic, even if active, track.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
This set includes a bonus DVD copy of the film, and features both cuts, theatrical and unrated, on the Blu-ray disc.
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 6 min) - More discussion of Jim's masturbatory habits, Stiffler taunting, Casey Affleck, reserve reserves, a mochachino squirts warning, and successful voyeurism for the cast's youngest member. These cuts were appropriate.
- Outtakes (SD, 3 min) - Some behind the scenes/pre-take shots, failed lines, and more band camp jokes.
- Audio Commentary - With Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz, Adam Herz, Seann William Scott, Eddie Kaye Thomas, and Jason Biggs. Learn about the ratings problems and random cuts from the first time directors, censorship and original ideas, sausage penises, filming anecdotes and observations. It's really a coherent, free moving, light, fun track. The guys bust their own balls regularly, making this track somewhat endearing, hitting on random ideas, hit or miss, throughout the flick with very few mini-gaps in coverage. This one earns an A- in my book.
- Casting Tapes (SD, 7 min) - Playable one at a time or all together. Auditions for Biggs, Elizabeth, Hannigan, Klein, Nicholas, and Thomas. The Scott footage isn't found here, but can be seen briefly in the extras for 'Wedding.' No, Elizabeth doesn't audition the twins. This footage is mostly closeups of single scenes, and are over quite briefly. Interesting the original dialogue that got tweaked later on.
- Spotlight on Location (SD, 10 min) - Recycled interview footage, clips from the film, other interview footage. Pretty basic stuff.
- From the Set: Photographic Montage (SD, 7 min) - The Weitz brothers talk over a series of photos of random behind the scenes moments, as well as frames from the film. Interesting stuff, actually.
- Poster Concepts (7 min) - A slideshow of proposed posters, from before it was even called 'American Pie.' It's amazing how this film could have been buried with some of these awful bits of art and that dumb as hell name. You may catch yourself asking who the heck some of the models are supposed to be. It's that bad.
- Music (SD, 16 min) - A music video from Tonic (for You Wanted More) after a promo advertising the soundtrack, and a life performance from the band. Is it appropriate to trash the band's generic sound in this space? No? Well, I just did.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 min) - The trailer for the film, in good ol' standard definition.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
A Digital Copy is included in this set, as a non-disc based paper sheet (please note: it is not an UltraViolet code). The stereotypical Universal My Scenes bookmarking feature is included, as are PocketBlu and BD-Live, which is only used for pre-menu distraction.
- 'American Reunion:' A Look Inside (HD, 4 min) - A preview of the upcoming film, and a brief one at that. It's not very informative, honestly.
- American Pie Revealed (SD, 213 min) - Three and a half hours, covering all three films. Insanity! Eugene Levy rocks out with his caterpillar eyebrows out, hosting this feature. Explore the history as far back as the writer's own history and experiences, and how they influenced the script, and then the story of selling said script! Then, check out audition footage for the characters, and find out how some actors were less than interested at first, before moving on to storyboarding and film plotting. The filming aspects cover the varying odd sets, a focus on the numerous extended sex scenes or gross-outs (each getting a particular focus), before moving on to rehearsing active shots and showing off the real house and the real owner, box office success and puritan backlash.
82 minutes into the feature, we move on to 'American Pie 2.' Yes, readers, all the above was about the first film. I have to bite my tongue about most of the positivity of the cast and crew, and almost yelled at Chris Klein (a daily occurrence in the Boss household) on screen when he said they didn't want to make a shitty film. Learn about MILFs and MILF vomit, which is interesting, but the lost stories are a must see. Find out why Oz and Heather get so little screen time, see where Kevin really wanted to go, meet Stifler's dad, and witness Finch's tantric "O face" before he fights his lover's ex. Screenwriter Herz admits that this second film is not a complete story, that it's lacking compared to the fullness of the first, though the featured reshoots didn't quite fix it all. Then, we see the same spotlights on the gross-out set pieces, each given a minute or two, before Thomas Ian Nicholas begs us to press the stop button when he talks.
With around 70 minutes left in the feature, we move on to 'American Wedding,' where the actors all say they didn't think there would be a third film. Yeah, gee, another open-ended finale along with a budding relationship...they must be stupid. Go through the cast read through, watch the dogs, then focus again on the standout gags (each with their own chapter), check out the props and Jim's room, and then get ready for a reunion. No, readers, it's not footage of 'American Reunion,' it's the cast, in a bar, reminiscing. Finally, we get some 'American Pie' FAQ's, with some very interesting, sometimes funny thoughts. Why didn't Oz get to see Nadiavision? Did Oz score? Where'd MILF come from? Is Chris Klein worth a quarter million dollars? Is Chris Klein a robot, gathering information on humanity before he takes it over, knowing all our weaknesses? Why are most questions about Chris Klein? Find out!
- 100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters (HD, 8 min) - And what does this have to do with 'American Pie?' This release doesn't come with a "100 Years" themed cover, and there's not a single 'Pie' moment in this footage. If I wanted to see a compilation of Universal footage, well, I doubt I'd do it from a disc from 'American Pie.'
'American Pie' is a fun, light-hearted comedy. Really. It's crude and rude, but it has its heart in the right place, and it moves along at a brisk, fun pace, with tons of fresh, new faces hitting it big for the first time. This Blu-ray has video that's better than that found on the German import, but not by enough to warrant a repurchase, while the audio is much improved. The real killer here is the three and a half hour exclusive feature on the entire trilogy, making this a very loaded disc, with tons and tons of content for the price.
- Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy
- Region A/B/C
- BD50 disc
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- French DTS 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
- English SDH, French, Spanish
- Spotlight on Location featurette
- Commentary with director Paul Weitz, producer Chris Weitz, writer Adam Herz, and cast members Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jason Biggs, & Seann William Scott
- Universal Records soundtrack presentation
- Classic Quotes
- Deleted Scenes
- Gag Reel
Exclusive HD Content
- American Pie Revealed
- American Reunion: A Look Inside
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