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In 1999, American Pie was at the end of one phase and the beginning of another, which is why it seems both dated and prescient – a relic from a randier era of cable-ready frathouse and gross-out comedies, and a look ahead to a sweeter brand of raunch, rooted in deep friendships and the possibility of a more mature, longer-lasting romance.
At the time, the Farrelly brothers hits Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary were sparking a can-you-top-this cycle of R-rated comedies that carried into the early 2000s, with titles now either forgotten (Say It Ain’t So, Slackers, Waiting …) or not worth remembering (Scary Movie, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder).
Like most reunions, it intersperses the horror of recognition with effortfully winsome gestures at nostalgia.
Life, along a path strewn with dwindling sequels, has treated cast and characters alike with different degrees of kindness.
It’s common for teenage boys to squint at softcore porn through the bars on premium cable channels or to get caught masturbating by a parent or to fumble out of inexperience or overexcitement.
There’s a moment in the film that deals with the fallout from Jim’s webcam encounter with Nadia (Elizabeth), the foreign exchange student.But it gives so little thought to the opposite sex, who are either brazenly lusty or careful gatekeepers of their own chastity, waiting for an “I love you” or some other show of sensitivity, like a password at a speakeasy.Women seem as inexplicable to the film-makers themselves as they are to the characters.The film also worked in the post-Animal House tradition of boys behaving badly, specifically Porky’s, which was also about nerdy high school students who make a pact to lose their virginity.
The webcam in American Pie was merely a tech update on the locker-room peephole that Porky’s plastered on its poster, and both films were fully prepared to deliver the voyeuristic kick they promised. Just the premise of high school boys vowing, by hook or by crook, to lose their virginity before prom feels like a game of Russian roulette with four bullets in the chamber.