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 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 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.
This set includes a bonus DVD copy of the film, and features both cuts, theatrical and unrated, on the Blu-ray disc.
'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.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.