One 1999 comedy had its pie and ate it, too. It’s best not to say what else happened to the unfortunate pastry.
“American Pie” not only launched, albeit briefly, the careers of several young actors but it brought the teen comedy into the Internet age.
Suddenly, screenwriters could concoct an entire set piece around a hidden web cam and one very naughty foreign exchange student.
The R-rated romp also mashed up the raunchy and the sincere in a way producer Judd Apatow would perfect a few years later with “The 40-Year Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” and “Superbad.”
Now, with a fourth “American” movie hitting theaters April 6, it’s high time to revisit the film that started it all. And the studio behind the franchise is making that a bit easier this week by releasing the first three films in the series on Blu-ray.
The 1999 original holds up nicely, even if the first 20 minutes feel as labored as one of those “Saturday Night Live” sketches they foist upon us right before 1 a.m.
In “Pie,” a quartet of virginal pals declare Prom Night will mark the end of their collective innocence. Lumbering Oz (Chris Klein) finds his inner gentleman as part of the school’s glee club. Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) pushes positive rumors about him around school to pique the ladies’ interest. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) nudges his squeeze (Tara Reid) into consummating their love after prom. Jim (Jason Biggs) romances a pie.
The film’s best scene finds Jim trying to seduce said exchange student (Shannon Elizabeth) while his buddies look on via a pre-Skype web cam. It’s a naughty blend of technology and randy teen antics, a slapstick symphony that far outlives the sight of Jim’s encounter with that pie. Yes, the Blu-ray’s unrated edition offers that unpleasant visual.
And then there’s Stifler’s Mom (Jennifer Coolidge, part of the Christopher Guest improve All-Stars). Coolidge’s character is repeatedly referenced in “Pie” as a M.I.L.F. (if you don’t know what that means, please don’t google it) but not seen until the film’s waning moments.
When she does appear, turning the unflappable Finch into a puddle of teen hormones, it’s a home run of comic invention.
“Pie” also introduced us to Stifler (Seann William Scott), one of the movie’s most obnoxious, and hilarious, scene stealers. Later “Pie” installments unwisely increased Stifler’s screen time. Scott remains a combustible screen comic, but the perfect Stifler ratio demands restraint.
The film series temporarily ended with 2003’s “American Wedding,” although several direct-to-DVD spinoffs kept the franchise alive.
Now, “American Reunion” wants to bring back Jim, Stifler, Stifler’s Mom and Jim’s Dad for more laughs – and possibly a franchise reborn. For now, the first installment remains a keeper, a bridge between teen comedies of yesterday and today. And we’ll never look at Grandma’s apple pie the same way again.