American Pie Marks 25th Anniversary

American Pie is the 1999 teen movie that pushed limits by depicting high school teenagers with an honest portrayal on screen.

High schoolers will be high schoolers. And yet, watching this film for its 25th anniversary comes with a very different lens than my first viewing in the summer between 8th grade and 9th grade. My high school life didn’t go the way that it did in this film but that’s because being a closeted transgender girl at the time makes high school even weirder. The conversations that I had to deal with in school or on field trips…some of which I never want to deal with again. But anyway, I don’t think every guy thinks about sex in the way that this film does but back then? Oh, a good amount did. Again, I had to put on a front in school. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a guy talking about sex or a similar subject…

Five male seniors make a pact to lose their virginity ahead of graduating from East Great Falls High School. Only one, Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) of them has a steady girlfriend, Vicky (Tara Reid), upon making the pact. The others, not so much. Anyway, the females in the film are also looking to have sex. Unlike films that came before, the script makes sure that they are also fully developed as characters. If the film is going to display an honest look at teen life, they have to have as much power in the relationship. Love and sex, by that nature, is a two-way street. However, they are not taking the outrageous approaches as the guys. Lacross star Oz (Chris Klein) finds this out really quick as he meets up with a college date prior to Stifler’s (Seann William Scott) party. Oz eventually goes out with Heather (Mena Suvari).

It is through Jim (Jason Biggs) that the film lives and dies, no matter how many times Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) shares stories from band camp. Jim, more so than the rest of the cast, finds himself in a coming-of-age arc. His failures with Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) are what eventually drive him down the path to asking Michelle out.

Finch (Eddie Kay Thomas) comes off as the mature member of the group. He may get himself into a humiliating situation in the restroom because of Stifler but then ends up in a hot tub with Stifler’s mom (Jennifer Coolidge) later on. That’s after paying Jessica (Natasha Lyonne) to spread rumors of his sexual prowess in hopes of finding a date.

One thing that surprises me upon looking back is that this is Paul Weitz’s directorial debut. Who would have thought at the time that the film would spawn three sequels and the spinoff American Pie Presents franchise? Of course, who could ever forget Jason Biggs making out with an apple pie? Looking back, there are so many quotable lines from the film. Some of them would eventually make their way into the American lexicon. Again, it really speaks to the film’s popularity. The only way to make this film is with an R rating. I mean, they could have tried for PG-13 but it would not be the same. A PG-13 rating would be unable to honestly portray teenagers. When we talk about filmmakers pushing the limits, this is exactly what Adam Herz does with the script. Think of something outrageous and it is likely in there!

The fact that this film happened and is raunchy as it gets is a credit to the filmmakers. If they didn’t fight for what they were making, we wouldn’t be talking about American Pie today. They gave us a film with characters that we laughed at–sometimes more hysterically than others–but also cared about them. When we see Kevin upset and sitting on the stairs during prom, he doesn’t know that Sherman (Chris Owen) lied about having sex. The lie put the entire plot in motion and he’s upset about ruining things with Vicky. To think that Universal sold off the foreign rights because they didn’t have the faith in its box office chances. The $11 million film made well over $200 million!

Something to think about 25 years later: there is a universe where Bill Murray plays Noah Levenstein. Sorry but I cannot see that. Honestly, the character would need a less Jewish-sounding less name if that were the case. Similarly, in a pre-Wikipedia world, I thought Jason Biggs was Jewish because of this film. Also, I just cannot imagine watching Jonathan Taylor Thomas in this role and that’s another possibility. But back to Noah, this film is what it is because of Eugene Levy’s improv skills. In a world where mainstream comedies get more respect, maybe Eugene Levy could have received an Academy Award nomination. I’m not sure who you would drop but I’m putting it out there.

After the American Pie‘s release, it would be eight years before audiences saw another original comedy that was just as outrageous and focused on teens, Superbad. Is there still an audience for these types of films in a post-MeToo era? That’s a good question. An American Pie Presents spinoff was released in 2020–the first since 2009. It would be the first film without either Eugene Levy or nudity. While there continues to be talk of a fifth American Pie film starring the main cast, one wonders if or when it will happen and how raunchy it would be. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

DIRECTOR: Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz
SCREENWRITER: Adam Herz
CAST: Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, and Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, Chris Owen, Clyde Kusatsu, Lawrence Pressman

Universal Pictures released American Pie in theaters on July 9, 1999. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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