American Pie: Ultimate Edition
Universal Studios Home Video
Starring Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas,
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Review by Gregory P. Dorr
In what must equal the sublime pleasures of heaven for fans of cum jokes, there are now four editions of the raunchy teen sex comedy American Pie available on DVD. In response, no doubt, to the vast public outcry upon the paltry 1999 single-disc Collector's Edition (in both, scoff, rated and unrated versions), what with its sniveling excuses for extra features (A commentary track? Pshaw! Outtakes? The temerity!), Universal Studios Home Video has thankfully begged mercy for their transgress and offered as sacrifice a two-disc Ultimate Edition of this important cultural landmark. An Ultimate Edition, no less, available in, thank The Great Lord, both rated and, gasp, unrated versions.
Uh, important cultural landmark? Excuse me?
If there is an overfilmed rite of passage for the teenage male, it is the first lay. For some mysterious reason, this banal subject has inspired a legion of squirmy comedies whereas other, equally important milestones on the road to manhood (learning to drive, registering to vote) have been largely and mournfully overlooked.
Losing one's cherry has been dealt with time and again on the silver screen, especially in the early 1980s, when risqué comedies like The Last American Virgin and Private School for Girls ejaculated out of Hollywood's fertile marketing departments. And then, the orgasm: Porky's, a zenith of bawdy teen trouser-droppings and naked girls. By the time Porky's 3: The Next Day came around, it was clear that the comic wad never that funny in the first place had been spent.
Then, almost 20 years later, comes American Pie, riding high on a comic wave of recent adult-themed cum-shot comedies, to revolutionize the Losin' It school of humor. Writer Adam Herz and director Paul Weitz take a novel approach they actually make their movie funny and wind up with one of the best teen comedies of a currently overstuffed genre.
It's not the plot that's inspired four high school buddies make a pact to get their grooves on before the end of their senior prom in three weeks' time and the excruciating foray into laxative humor is a definite misstep. But American Pie's creative team wins big with a solid cast of strong young actors, a keen eye for some seldom-lampooned aspects of the high school milieu, and even a touch of bittersweet reality amidst the broad farce as the four muff-keteers approach the end of their quest for poon.
Keeping with tradition, American Pie's sexcapades are certainly drenched in pubescent humiliation, but also owe an unusual debt to creativity and sensitivity. There is a definite nod toward folly as these believable friends throw themselves into chaos, and all for a dubious reward so built-up by hormones and teen-mythology that, faced with the reality of sex, none of them have any idea what to expect. And one thing American Pie subtly but poignantly makes clear is that this particular coming of age, once endured, is small stuff compared to the other changes and uncertainties that adult life holds in store.
The women in this film (as the all-male commentary panel points out with some frequency) are knockouts, especially nude model Shannon Elizabeth as foreign exchange student Nadia. Alyson Hannigan also makes a hilarious appearance as Jim's band-dork prom date. Amidst all the quality performances, Eugene Levy stands out as Jim's bumbling dad.
O.K., it sounds good. But why so many discs?
That's easy: Synergy. The only excuse for this Ultimate Edition (released July 2001) is to drum up more attention for the August 2001 theatrical release American Pie 2.
Don't misunderstand: this Ultimate Edition is a better product than the previous release. But necessary? Hardly.
First, what hasn't changed?
- The movie is still funny.
- Like its predecessor, the Ultimate Edition is available in both rated and unrated incarnations. There is only a few seconds difference between the two cuts. However, a few of those seconds involve Shannon Elizabeth pleasuring herself, making the rated version suitable only for church youth groups.
- The menus are the same desktop computer mockup with a teasing loop of the fetching Elizabeth disrobing.
- Both versions include the same amiable, party-like commentary by director Paul Weitz, producer Chris Weitz, writer Adam Herz and cast members Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott. They laugh a lot and say little of interest, but it sounds like they're having fun, and that's just enough to compel listening.
- Both editions share the same outtakes (2:30), a reel of amusing bloopers and unused takes revolving mostly around Eugene Levy's shtick, Allyson Hannigan's awful band camp stories, Seann William Scott doing his best to seem crass and uncaring, which he does very well and will forever be typecast doing, and Jason Biggs humping a pastry.
- Each version features a 10-minute Spotlight on Location EPK including cast and crew interviews interspersed with clips from the movie that illustrate what marketing execs think you will find the funniest parts of the movie. Naturally, this gives undue emphasis to an isolated poo joke.
- A feature called Music Highlights, that allows the user to select a one of 22 songs from the film's soundtrack and go directly to the scene during which that song is played.
- Similarly, Classic Quotes allows the user to select one of 20 "classic quotes" from the film and jump to scene in question. Quotes like, "Deep conversation, huh? Is that what you call it?" and "Houston, we have a problem." This is not one of the brightest features.
- Production notes. Long production notes. Does anyone actually read these?
- A commercial for the soundtrack album followed by Tonic's music video "You Wanted More."
- Cast and crew stuff.
- Trailer for American Pie.
- Trailers for other Universal DVD releases.
- "Recommendations," which are more adverts for other Universal DVD releases.
All that? So, what's new?
- The Packaging. Whereas the previous edition was in a measly keep case, the Ultimate Edition sports a fancy, three-leaf, transparent overfolding contraption that looks very nice, but isn't so easy to handle if you happen to have, say, a disc in one hand as you try with the other hand to unfold the leaves in order to put said disc away. It is also notable that Allyson Hannigan's notorious band flute is conspicuous in the cover art.
- Two discs. Yes, two discs. As with most two-disc sets, you'd assume that one disc features a pristine transfer of the film, while the other is packed with invaluable extras. You'd be wrong. Disc one, in fact, features a pristine 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer of the film and is packed with invaluable extras. So what does disc two have? Why, the full-frame version of the film. Yes, this is the biggest scam of this Ultimate Edition; this is what warrants the two-disc set pricing. The second disc also contains a few of the same features as on Disc One, like the commentary, but nothing exclusive.
- DTS. Discs One and Two offer DTS audio mixes in addition to Dolby Digital 5.1 in both English and French, with further options of English or Spanish subtitles.
- The two discs are adorned with an unsettling depiction of a despoiled pie.
- Deleted scenes, 10 of them:
- Excised dialogue between Chris Klein, Jason Biggs, and Thomas Ian Nicholas as Nicholas frets about his girlfriend's feelings.
- Excised dialogue between Chris Klein and Jason Biggs about the erotic properties of cartoon characters and C-SPAN.
- Excised dialogue between Chris Klein and Seann William Scott, and some of the other guys, about Klein's upcoming date with a college girl.
- A scene starring superstar Ben Affleck's underwhelming brother, Casey.
- Excised dialogue between the guys as they interpret personal ads.
- Shannon Elizabeth's parting words following her anti-climactic encounter with Jason Biggs.
- A bit of dialogue immediately preceding the unfortunate poo joke.
- The guys hold a con-fab during prom and are interrupted by the memorable Chris Owens.
- A post-coital gag involving Jason Biggs and Allyson Hannigan, and a young boy.
- The guys debrief about their debriefings.
- As if the commentary and interviews during the EPK weren't enough, there is also "From the Set," a photograph montage with directorial and producer comments, during which the Weitz brothers keep talking. You know, I like this movie, but it's not The Godfather, O.K.? The commentary more than proves that there really isn't that much to be said about American Pie, as if that weren't obvious beforehand. For God's sake.
- A five-minute EPK previewing American Pie 2, which involves all the actors from the first film giving plot summaries of the second film.
- A 10 minute collection of live concert footage and backstage interviews with the soundtrack band Tonic.
- Trailer for American Pie 2.
- Perhaps the best feature on this set is the evolutionary montage of approx. 100 different poster designs for American Pie, including those done when the working title of the film was Great Falls, and many of which are indistinguishable from the lousy, early 1980s sex comedies with titles like Screwballs and Cherry Hill High and which you find in soiled boxes on the shelves of your local video store.
- Promotion-laden DVD-ROM features, the highlight of which is a script-to-film section.
Collector's Edition owners without DTS decoding can sleep peacefully. That is, unless you're still up all night replaying Shannon Elizabeth's strip tease. Still, the Ultimate Edition, despite its dead-weight second disc, is an attractive product, and moderately priced (considering), and will please previously unenlightened fans.
Gregory P. Dorr
- Two-disc set
- Anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and full-frame (1.33:1)
- Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French), DTS 5.1 (English, French)
- Commentary by director Paul Weitz, producer Chris Weitz, writer Adam Herz and cast members Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott
- Ten deleted scenes
- "Spotlight on Location" featurette (10 min.)
- Live concert footage with Tonic (10 min.)
- Outtakes (2:30)
- "From the Set" photo montage
- American Pie 2 preview
- Production notes
- Theatrical trailers for American Pie and American Pie 2
- Classic quotes
- DVD-ROM content (including script-to-screen)
- Dual DVD digipak with semi-transparent folding cover
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