American Pie (1999)

Just like slashers, the teenage sex comedy is in the lowest tier of film genres but one that Hollywood always returns to, then overdoes, then forgets all over again only to bring it back every few years. American Pie was a shocker hit, beating Wild Wild West in its first weekend, and so many movies followed in its wake like RoadtripEurotrip and National Lampoon’s Van Wilder before the cycle ended again, only to be repeated when Superbad came out.

That said, I saw this in the theater at an early screening and was shocked at how loud the audience was laughing. It felt good to just have something dumb up on the screen, even if the loss of virginity plot had been seen before. Yet much of its audience was too young for Porky’s and Animal House and by the time those once ribald movies were viewable for them, they could easily watch hardcore porn online. How would a sex comedy reach this new focus group?

By embracing them.

Brothers Paul and Chris Weitz also made Down to Earth and About a Boy together. Just like Bob Clark basing Porky’s on his life, Lemon Popsicle coming from Boaz Davidson’s (and Menahem Golan, probably) teenage hijinks and Fast Times at Ridgemont High from Cameron Crowe’s undercover time writing about high school for Rolling Stone, the Weitz brothers based this movie on what it was like to attend East Grand Rapids High School in Michigan. The script had the title Untitled Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made For Under $10 Million That Most Readers Will Probably Hate But I Think You Will Love.

There are five friends that make up this story:

The inexperienced Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) who gives the film its name when he attempts to put the moves on a literal piece of pie. He also keeps screwing up his chance to lose his virginity to exchange student Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth).

Lacrosse player Chris “Oz” Ostreicher (Chris Klein) who joins the choir to find a girl and ends up falling for Heather (Mena Suvari).

Group leader Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas) who just wants to have sex with his longtime girlfriend Vicky (Tara Reid).

The elitist and super smart Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas).

The jock maniac Steven Stifler (Seann William Scott), the only of the group who has actually had sex.

The four boys make a pact that they will all lose their virginity — which is totally the theme of Blockers but also made way more politically correct — by the day after prom. The one thing I will say about this movie is that there’s a scene with Jim and Vicky that’s all about the woman’s pleasure being more important than the man’s, which is a pretty wild idea for 1999.

The really great thing is that this movie introduced people to actors they didn’t know or in the case of Jennifer Coolidge and Eugene Levy should have already known. Levy only signed on if he could ad lib all of his lines and by the end of the series was the only actor to be in all of these films (other than American Pie: Girls’ Rules). Alyson Hannigan was well-known from being on Buffy the Vampire Slayer but this was the role that she became known for for some time. Even Natasha Lyonne is in this (and amazing in nearly every moment, redeeming so much of the cringe moments).

I have no idea why Universal Pictures sold their international rights and thought this movie wouldn’t be huge. The music is so of the time, the kids feel real for a mainstream movie and sex always sells. I mean, it sold enough to make eight sequels to this.

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