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July 9 - 16, 1999

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Deep dish

American Pie satisfies teen appetites

by Jumana Farouky

AMERICAN PIE, Directed by Paul Weitz. Written by Adam Herz. With Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann W. Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, and Eugene Levy.

There's nothing wrong with a little T&A. And there's something hilarious about a lot of it. Just ask the folks who unleashed frat-house staples like Animal House and Porky's on hormonally charged audiences, knowing full well that sex doesn't sell just cars and shaving cream. It's 20 years later and moviegoers are just as horny, but casual, comedic sex has all but disappeared from the big screen. Shackled by rabid political correctness, and scared stiff (no pun intended) by even a whiff of sexual harassment, moviemakers seem to have forgotten that the combination of people and sex -- people wanting sex, people having sex, people watching people having sex -- can be damn funny.

Enter American Pie, a film that remembers what it was like to be a teenager. When teens aren't having sex, they're wishing they were, and that's the position the movie's four young friends find themselves in: graduation looms and all four guys are still virgins. Their solution is to make a pact -- by any and all means necessary, each must knock boots by the end of prom night. In the hands of Chris and Paul Weitz (producer and director, respectively), a potentially vulgar and pathetic story becomes a sinful pleasure. The boys try so hard to bed the girls of their desires, you can't help hoping that in the end they'll all get what they want. And then you remember that what they want is to play hide the salami -- yet still you cheer them on.

The brothers Weitz don't miss any opportunity for a sex gag. Finding himself sans tissue after sneaking off with his girlfriend at a party, Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas -- a little taller than he was in Rookie of the Year) deposits some of his love juice into a cup of beer and sets it on the bedside table. The gag is set, the punch line is coming, you can only wait. And sure enough, a clueless partygoer takes a swig, but not before bringing the cup to his lips several times only to be interrupted by his whiny girlfriend. Crude? Yes. Predictable? Certainly. But also utterly satisfying. And when the aforementioned partygoer tells the shy, dorky Jim (newcomer Jason Biggs -- a baby John Belushi) that sex feels like "warm apple pie," you want Jim to encounter said fruity treat and you need him to get all sorts of perverse ideas. And indeed he does. Follow the cast into that part of your mind that thinks masturbation jokes are funny and you will be greatly rewarded.

American Pie shines where other teen flicks glaze over. There's no soul searching, no lost-little-boy-to-caring-sharing-man transformation, no deeply profound revelation about life, love, or football. Just a group of guys trying to get some. Refreshing honesty in a time when most movies for teens preach that maturity means shunning carnal pleasures and love is never wanting to say, "I'd really like to see you naked some time." The Weitzes include actual nakedness -- earning their film the "R" rating that will have kids nationwide pulling out their fake IDs. Meanwhile, Jennifer Love Hewitt in I Still Know What You Did . . . wears a tight, white, wet shirt . . . she's naked, but not really (wink, wink). Score one for Pie, the thinking-kid's skin flick, which doesn't insult the audience's intelligence by pretending sex isn't the driving force behind teensploitation.

More savvy than a Porky's revisited, American Pie offers a slice (pun intended) of teenage life that other films tend to sweep under the rug. Adults who still chuckle when they think of their own testosterone-driven high-school antics will appreciate its honesty, as will kids who are sick of movies that portray them as either psychos or heroes. An equal-opportunity rompathon, the film doesn't ignore the ladies. Girls like to get their rocks off too, and in the end everybody wins. Turns out the good girls aren't always so good and the bad girls are even worse.

Of course, common sense and a little mush make appearances as condoms abound and somebody even falls in love. But with a healthy sense of humor about youth and sex, this movie will earn a coveted spot next to Fast Times at Ridgemont High in every college kid's video collection. It usually takes years, even decades, for a film to reach cult-classic status; American Pie is already there.

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