Plot: What’s it about?
Jim (Jason Biggs) is always thinking about girls and sex, but his erotic adventures usually end up with him humiliated, to say the least. Oz (Chris Klein) is a popular jock with limited mental power, who tries to be suave, but his hollow approach sinks from the start. Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) tries to work a sophisticated angle, but usually ends up scoffed or mocked. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nichols) has a girlfriend in Vicki (Tara Reid), but he hasn’t reached home base just yet, as she wants it all to be perfect beforehand. These four friends have had enough with failures in the realm of sex and as such, they make a pact to take the next step before graduation, which means they have to get laid before the end of prom. It won’t be an easy task by any means, but they each have a plan of sorts and with a little luck, they’ll be able to make it happen. But when all four experience some real downs as well as ups, it seems like it might not all work out, at least not as planned.
I saw American Pie in the theater and while I was very entertained, I questioned how well the film would hold up on home video. I’ve owned the original release and now this two disc Ultimate Edition, so I suppose my doubts were unfounded, as American Pie still makes me laugh a lot, especially in moments I was sure would lose their impact. The accent of Nadia, the Yeti yeller at the party, the band camp jokes, most of the gags have held up well and in the case of the smaller ones, they’re funnier than ever and that’s impressive, I think. I do think Jason Biggs gets a little tired to watch at times, but on the whole, the movie is fun to watch often and that’s always a good thing in comedies, as so many are one time only titles. This new two disc edition was released to tie in with American Pie 2 and while most of the stuff is recycled, there’s enough new goods to make the upgrade worth the effort, at least I think so. As was the case before, you have the choice of the theatrical edition or an uncut version and in this review, I cover the unrated option. I give American Pie a high recommendation and if you decide to pick it up, I think the unrated choice is the wiser one.
She is not too skilled as an actress and her accent is hilariously poor, but Shannon Elizabeth is nothing short of incredible, hands down. I don’t know if her career will be a long one or well remembered, but Elizabeth has had some great roles and while she isn’t a master thespian, she is always fun to watch. She fudges her accent to no mortal end and never seems to come close to doing it well, but she gets some laughs for her efforts and this is supposed to be a comedic film, right? Yeah, she is more about looks than acting skills, but she has a solid presence and she does take her gear off here, which has to count for something, I think. You can also see Elizabeth in such films as Jack Frost, Scary Movie, Seamless, Tomcats, and Dish Dogs. The cast also includes Jason Biggs (Loser, Saving Silverman), Seann William Scott (Evolution, Road Trip), Mena Suvari (American Beauty, Sugar & Spice), Eugene Levy (Down to Earth, Best in Show), and Natasha Lyonne (Detroit Rock City, Slums of Beverly Hills).
Video: How does it look?
American Pie is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, while a full frame edition has been included on the second disc. I wasn’t too pleased with the transfer on the original release and since this is the exact same transfer, I’m still displeased with the visual treatment provided. The image is good enough to watch, but it seems so dark at times, that detail is sometimes lost and that’s not too cool. I suppose most of the flick just seems a shade too dark, but some scenes are way too dark and that’s where the complaints begin. The detail seems lowered and the visual impact is lessened, which isn’t what we want from this discs. The overly dark contrast throws the other elements off base also, which handicaps this entire transfer from the start. Now, you can watch this and still have fun with the movie, but this transfer simply isn’t as good as it should be, especially given Universal’s usually terrific visual transfer work.
Audio: How does it sound?
This new two disc Ultimate Edition includes the same Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track as the previous release, but also adds a new DTS 5.1 option, which is quite welcome. As you can imagine, this isn’t the kind of movie to showcase your home theater with, but it has more punch than most comedies, so you’ll know the surrounds are turned on. The musical soundtrack is the most active element of course, but you’ll also hear some subtle presence and that enhances the atmosphere, a very welcome touch. The dialogue is clean and crisp throughout also, which is important, given the nature of this movie. The DTS option takes the lead in terms of scope, but both sound great and either would make a solid choice. This release also includes a French 5.1 surround track, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
In addition to the added footage found in the film itself thanks to the move to the unrated cut, this two disc release sports some cool extras, to be sure. Most of the extras are from the previous release, but some new goodies were also included and in any event, I’m pleased to see such a nice selection of extras for American Pie. An audio commentary with director Paul Weitz, producer Chris Weitz, and various cast members kicks us off and as you’d expect, this is by no means a technical commentary session. Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, and Eddie Kaye Thomas join the brothers and provide some comic relief, as well as stories from the production, which were welcome moments, to be sure. A brisk, fun track with a decent amount of information, this session is a good commentary for those who usually hate commentaries, at least I think so. You’re in luck if you’re a fan of Tonic, as this release includes a music video from the group, as well as an eleven minute featurette, with two live songs and a selection of interview clips.
But that’s not the end of the extras, by any means, as we have plenty more goodies to discuss with this release. A brief, but decent behind the scenes featurette is included, but I do wish a more in depth one were provided, if just to hear more from the cast & crew. Universal used to make some awesome documentaries back in the laserdisc era, but now they seem content to make ten minute promo pieces, which is a real shame indeed. A photo montage is up next and as the stills slide by your eyes, you’ll hear an audio interview with the Weitz brothers, which enhances the feature more than a little. A selection of deleted scenes is also included, which are cool to be able to watch, while a brief outtake reel provides a few laughs also. This disc also includes a Classic Quotes feature, music highlights, production notes, talent files, DVD ROM content, poster artwork, and the film’s theatrical trailer. A trailer and featurette for American Pie 2 are also found on this release, but I couldn’t care less about them, since this disc is supposed to be about the first American Pie.