Baked Goods Part 1 (American Pie, 1999)
American Pie was a movie released promising to bring back the spirit of films Like Porky’s, Hot Dog, Ski School and Revenge of the Nerds. They were going to push the boundaries, starting with the plot. The plot is real simple. Four buddies make a pact to lose their virginity before graduation in their senior year.
And the film follows their fumbles as they race for that goal. Sensitive Athlete Oz (Chris Klein) joins the Choir to woo cute and sweet Heather (Mena Suvari). Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is trying to get his girlfriend Vicky (Tara Reid) to give up her virginity. “Worldly” Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) ultimately tries by being cool and aloof. Then there is Jim (Jason Biggs), the nerd of the group who pins his hopes on the sexy and sexually available foreign exchange student Nadia. Jim is repeatedly humiliated in the film.
The thing that is surprising? This film has a lot of heart. A lot of that is between the well written and performed scenes between Jim and his Dad (Eugene Levy). Jim’s dad is part bumbling dad stereotype, part wise sage. He loves his son and wants his son to succeed in life. He also tries to help his son navigate the world of relationships. He stumbles through the attempts, but his kindness is a high point in the film.
The problem is, while the male leads are clearly defined, Jessica (Natasha Lyonne) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are the only female character who seem to have lives when they are not onscreen. Nadia gets the worst treatment as her character is literally only there to be someone Jim wants to have sex with. And when she and Jim have an embarrassing situation involving a webcam? She disappears from the story completely. And Jim, aside from humiliation, suffers no consequences.
The film’s gross out humor goes back and forth between disgusting and amusing. While Jim’s experiences are funny, the character of Stifler (Seann William Scott) gets the crude and disgusting moments. The character is pretty repulsive, constantly putting down the guys and making terrible sexual come ons (bordering on harassment) to the women around him. He is a sexist homophobic guy, and an all around unpleasant character.
The film also has the characters come to the realization that the pact is absurd. That sex is not the most important thing, and their pursuit of it was fruitless. And then the film ends with all the guys getting laid. So, way to undermine the revelation. Admittedly, it plays an important role for Kevin and Vicky dramatically (their experience is awkward and uncomfortable, and is spelling the end of their relationship, not fulfilling it). And Jim’s experience has a comedic payoff.
The film has it’s laughs and it’s heart does make it stand better against the test of time than films that tried to follow it’s success. But it is at best a flawed but entertaining comedy.