AMERICAN PIE – Blu-ray review

“Guys, what exactly does third base feel like?”
“Like warm apple pie.”

Universal’s “American Pie” was meant as a throwback to the raunchy teen comedies of the 80’s, specifically films like “Porky’s” and “The Last American Virgin.” Following in the filthy footsteps of the Farrelly Brothers’ “There’s Something About Mary,” it was a surprise hit during the summer of 1999, raking in over $235 million worldwide off a meager budget of $11 million. Just as “Scream” resurrected the slasher flick, “American Pie” revitalized the genre and inspired a host of knock-offs. With the recent release of installment “American Reunion,” Universal has re-issued the original trilogy on Blu-ray.

The story centers on a group of friends attending high school in Michigan. Graduation is closing in and they are concerned about going to college without ever having sex. They form a pact to lose their virginity before school is out. Oz (Chris Klein) is the star lacrosse player, who winds up getting in touch with his sensitive side when he begins dating Heather (Mena Suvari), a sweet choir girl. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is the only one who has a steady girlfriend in Vicky (Tara Reid), but his preoccupation with sex threatens to drive a wedge between them. The erudite Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and his intellectual pursuits regularly clash with crude party boy Stifler (Seann William Scott). Jim (Jason Biggs) is easily the most hapless of the bunch and his attempts to get off lead to exceedingly embarrassing situations. The film opens with Jim’s parents walking in on him as he attempts to masturbate while watching scrambled porn. Later, Jim’s dad (Eugene Levy) catches him humping an apple pie. Rather than sending the boy to a psychiatrist, dad decides to keep it a secret (“We’ll just tell your mother that we ate it all.”).

That’s the sort of humor that made “American Pie” such a success. Directors Paul & Chris Weitz, along with screenwriter Adam Herz, pick up where the Farrelly Brothers left off by upping the ante in terms of sexual situations, foul language, and potty humor. There is literally potty humor in “American Pie” thanks to a scene where Finch has explosive diarrhea in the girls’ restroom after being drugged by Stifler. Stifler himself downs a beer laced with another man’s semen, then pukes all over his date. But, the sequence most often mentioned could have only come from the wet dreams of the most unrepentant horndog. Jim gets his chance at adolescent immortality when the beautiful foreign exchange student Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) drops by for a study session. She winds up stripping naked while perusing Jim’s nudie magazines. Too bad for Jim he’s quick on the trigger and the whole thing gets broadcast to the entire school over the internet. This is 1999 internet so it’s a tiny window with an extremely low resolution stream. “American Pie” is also dated by its soundtrack of pop punk bands like Blink-182 and Goldfinger as well as “Laid” by one-hit wonder James. You almost expect to hear Jamiroquai or Chumbawamba next.

The girls of “American Pie” provide more than just pretty faces; they also bring a nice counterpoint to the male-dominated film. It’s a shame there’s not enough of them. Shannon Elizabeth is funny and sexy as the Czech cutie though Mena Suvari doesn’t leave much of an impression. This is mostly due to her thinly written character than her performance. It’s ironic to see Tara Reid play a virginal innocent considering what a party girl she eventually became. Aside from Eugene Levy, the best performance of the cast belongs to Alyson Hannigan as Michelle the band geek (“This one time at band camp…”). She’s talkative and adorably quirky with a hidden dark side. Hannigan is one of the few members of the main cast to find life outside the franchise due to her current role on CBS’s hit sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”

Seann William Scott has mostly played variations of the Stifler character in lowbrow comedies like “Dude, Where’s My Car?,” “The Rundown,” and “Role Models.” Biggs seemed to be similarly typecast as the nebbish dweeb following “American Pie.” While he appeared in Alexander Payne’s “Election” (a far superior high school comedy) around the same time, Chris Klein faded off into obscurity aside from a laughable turn in the awful “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.” Tara Reid has become mostly known for being tabloid fodder along with Natasha Lyonne, who played her sardonic best friend. Despite barely appearing in the film, John Cho went on to bigger fame and not just because of the “Harold and Kumar” series. He and Justin Isfeld co-starred as the “MILF Guys,” two horny dudes, who popularized the acronym for a “Mother I’d Like To F—k.” The risqué term of endearment led to the creation of an entire subgenre of porn and extended the careers of many aging XXX starlets.

As for the Weitz Brothers, they followed “American Pie” with “About a Boy” before establishing separate careers as writers, producers, and directors. Paul Weitz went on to direct “In Good Company” and “Little Fockers” while younger brother Chris went on to helm “The Golden Compass,” “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” and “A Better Life.”

The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is rather disappointing with a soft look overall. The colors and details appear muted

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The sound is well done, but nothing to brag about. As a dialogue-driven comedy, it comes off crisp and clear without a lot of bass or power.

The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary track featuring the Weitz Brothers, screenwriter Adam Herz, Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, and Eddie Kaye Thomas. It’s a lighthearted track with the participants discussing production anecdotes and battles with the censors when they aren’t ribbing each other.

The main extra here is American Pie Revealed: The Complete Story of All Three Comedies (3:33:29), an in-depth documentary looking over the first three films and split into multiple chapters.

American Reunion: A Look Inside (3:58) is a promo for the recently released fourth entry in the franchise.

Spotlight on Location (10:30) is a featurette looking at how the filmmakers recreated the high school setting from the classrooms to the prom.

From the Set: Photographic Montage with Director & Producer Comments (7:10) is exactly that a series of photographs with commentary by the Weitz Brothers.

100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters(8:18) is a promo celebrating the studios anniversary by breezing through many of their famous characters from films like “Jaws” and “The Big Lebowski.”

Rounding out the Blu-ray are casting tapes, deleted scenes, outtakes, a music video for Tonic’s “You Wanted More” and a live performance by the band, poster concepts, and the theatrical trailer. Released as a combo pack, the set also includes a DVD version of the film and a Digital Copy.

Oddly enough, the Blu-ray does not feature a main menu. Instead, the unrated version plays automatically and bonus material can only be accessed through the pop-up menu.

Film Value:
Comedy can be incredibly subjective. You’ll either find something funny or not. In the case of “American Pie,” many of my friends found it hilarious during its initial release. However, I was left stone faced by what I considered to be an uninspired series of dirty jokes with a few amusing moments scattered here and there.