Rated R - Running Time: 1:45 - Released 7/9/99

Oh, goody — another movie about high school boys racing each other to get laid. The premise of American Pie is ridiculous enough, but this sexual demolition derby, written by Adam Herz and directed by Paul Weitz, isn't even technically above average. There are bad cuts, continuity lapses, and a baffling resolution. The experiences that finally result from the boys' quest are at the least, awkward (and at the most, depressing).

The four heroes of our story are all seniors at East Great Falls High School in Michigan. Contrary to their most fervent wishes, Jim (Jason Biggs), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Oz (Chris Klein), and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) are all sexually innocent late in their senior year. Dreading the unspeakable possibility of starting college as virgins, they take a solemn oath to have sex with someone by prom night. Preferably female.

The only one who has a steady girlfriend is Kevin, but Vicky (Tara Reid) has that annoying girl rule of wanting him to say he loves her first. He can't bring himself to do that, of course. Vicky's worldly (that is, promiscuous) girlfriend Jessica (Natasha Lyonne) keeps encouraging her to take the plunge, but she's still not sure she's ready. Jim has perfected the art of autoeroticism, but he keeps getting caught by his parents. His father (Eugene Levy) adds humor by trying to educate him about women, buying him porno magazines and, to Jim's horror, discussing his own experiences. Finch plans to score by reputation, paying Jessica $200 to spread the word among the girls that he's "well-endowed." And Chris joins the jazz choir, seeing it as an untapped resource since none of the girls there know of his ill-advised intentions. He meets a young singer named Heather (Mena Suvari), and, against his better judgment, falls in love.

This film seems to be more a study in humiliation than a commentary on high school life or sexual mores. I counted at least 3 instances of the entire student body laughing at some poor sap who has just endured a very public embarassment of a very intimate nature. Bodily fluids and toilet humor are again quite prevalent, but one can't blame Herz for that — he's only following the example set by such successful films as There's Something About Mary and, more recently, Austin Powers: the Spy Who Shagged Me. As for the acting, well . . . the principals are generally believable, but some members of the supporting cast seem to have been hired more for physical characteristics than acting ability.

The idea of sex as a goal for teens is an unfortunate message, but not a new idea. We've seen variations of it in films like She's All That, Cruel Intentions, and Can't Hardly Wait. American Pie is better than all three of those combined; it's certainly entertaining, and apparently far less raunchy than its original NC-17 version. Too bad — it would have been better as a porn film. ***

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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