[box cover]

American Pie: Ultimate Edition

Universal Studios Home Video

Starring Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas,
Eddie Kaye Thomas, and Tara Reid

Written by Adam Herz
Directed by Paul Weitz

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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?

All that? So, what's new?

In conclusion

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

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© 2001, The DVD Journal