American Pie: Collector's Edition (1999)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 14-Feb-2000

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Spotlight On Location (10:05)
Audio Commentary-P Weitz (Dir), C Weitz (Prod), A Herz (Writ),et al
Outtakes-(2:33)
Music Highlights
Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
DVD-ROM Extras-Web Site
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 91:25
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Paul Weitz
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Jason Biggs
Chris Klein
Natasha Lyonne
Thomas Ian Nicholas
Tara Reid
Mena Suvari
Eugene Levy
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $36.95 Music David Lawrence


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I'm not entirely sure why I decided that I had to see this film for myself, and the usual explanation of insanity doesn't quite work in this case. To be honest with you, when this film was finished, I wound up hating it a lot less than I honestly thought I would, although the content of this film still doesn't quite sit in my stomach too well. I had been told that American Pie was the best comedy of 1999 by various people, but the advertising campaign had led me to believe that it was just another film created by the sorts of minds that believe all human beings between the ages of 15 and 21 have identical motivations and personalities. While the film didn't quite go far enough to counteract this impression, it is entertaining enough to make the average viewer forget about the shallow characterization and enjoy the story as it unfolds. The story, such as it is, revolves around a foursome of male adolescents who are about to graduate from high school and step out into the big bad world of college and so on and so forth. Essentially, after being led to believe that the class nerd has just succeeded in talking a female into going to bed with him, these four teens make a pact to do the same before prom night, come hell or high water. The main characters are introduced to the viewer at a breakneck pace, and it takes some getting used to before the film settles comfortably in one's mind. In the end, most of the characters are relegated to props, with only Jim, his friends, and the young women they pursue gaining any real significance in the picture. Still, this is a better arrangement than some films I could mention, such as The Crow: City Of Angels.

    However, this is probably the biggest problem with the film, as the vast majority of the characters are never quite fleshed out enough for the viewer to feel any particular sympathy for them as they go through their inevitable humiliations and struggles. I also found it difficult to relate to these characters, as there was no real detail to their portraitures, which makes the changes and developments in each character that are meant to advance the story seem more like a change in hair colour than any genuine change in character. However, Jim (Jason Biggs), the character that much of the story is told from the perspective of, does manage to carry the story because of the way we see him change as a human being from the beginning of the film to its end. His father (Eugene Levy) also manages to inject a dose of welcome humour into the proceedings. Other characters, such as Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth), Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), Oz (Chris Klein) and Jessica (Natasha Lyonne) help to flesh out the story of the film enough to sustain interest. As entertaining as the film was, however, American Pie seems little more than an updated clone of such direct-to-video B-grade releases from the 1980s as Porky's or Hot Chili. Sometimes things from the past are better off remaining there, if you know what I mean.

    In any case, if you after a quick, brainless laugh, then American Pie is a film designed with you in mind. It is crude, it is ugly, and it is shallow, but the comedic factor of the film makes it a reasonable way to spend ninety minutes. It is worthy of a rental, at least.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    While the video transfer is very good, I've certainly seen a lot better, with some very negative aspects to this transfer making their presence known. The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. The transfer was sharp, and reasonably clear, except that one of the major problems with this DVD is the excessive use of edge enhancement, which also leads me to believe that whomever was responsible for supervising the transfer of this film forgot that DVD is a format with far higher definition than the VHS cassette. I never previously thought that edge enhancement was anything to worry about before, and then I saw the annoying halo around Chris Klein's head from 33:08 to 33:29. This is certainly not the only example of such edge enhancement to be found on this DVD, either. In a great number of the scenes, edge enhancement is present to an excessive degree that should not be seen on our beloved discs. That it has been used on a film that was made last year is bad enough, but seeing it in the DVD version's presentation is just insulting. This is the sort of thing I would expect to see in an early Warner Brothers disc, not a recent disc from Columbia Tristar.

    The gamma level also appears to have been set too low during the first twenty minutes of the film, resulting in a noticeably overly dark picture for this part of the presentation. Thankfully, the gamma returns to a satisfactory level after twenty minutes, although this variation can be seen as being more annoying than having the brightness level set too low consistently throughout the film. Shadow detail is very good, although this is to be expected from a film that is less than a year old. No low-level noise made its way into the transfer, although this is also nothing to be too impressed about when you consider the very recent vintage of the film. The colours seemed to be a little muted during the first twenty minutes of the film, but this corrected itself shortly after the brightness level returned to normal. There was a mild amount of MPEG artefacting during the credits as a result of the edge enhancement, but thankfully none during the film itself. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some moderate aliasing from the usual culprits. Film artefacts were absent from the picture until just before the ending credits.

    The packaging claims that this disc is in the RSDL format, which it isn't. Given how many extras this disc has jammed onto it, this is simply not acceptable, and quite probably the source of the image quality problems during the film, except for that edge enhancement. Sadly, there is also a CSS key problem with this particular title. If you have a Xing DVD player, then this DVD will not function with your hardware, which has to be one of the most appalling things about this disc. If there's one thing that the early days of home computer software taught me, it is that when you take such ridiculous measures to prevent the casual copying of software, all the glory belongs to the hacker who defeats you. The time to unite, hack, strive, and conquer this menace who wants to tell you what you can and cannot watch your legitimately purchased discs on is here!

Audio

    There are just two audio tracks on this DVD, as opposed to the wide range we normally should expect on a Universal title: the original soundtrack of the film, encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1; and of course the Dolby Digital 2.0, mono-channel audio commentary. For the sake of completism (and possibly masochism), I listened to both of these soundtracks in spite of the fact that I felt the cast and crew of this film would have nothing that would qualify as being remotely interesting to tell me. As luck and a very bad script, possibly one worse than that for this film, would have it, I was not far off the mark. I have found it a common, but not all-prevalent, malady of films that their commentary track is proportional to the substance of the film (like The Matrix for instance). In any case, the dialogue was always clear and easy to understand, which is a standout point of the transfer when you consider how much ambient sound there was in the mix competing for the listener's attention. There was not a single word in this film that I did not understand at any point, and I believe that this would be the case for most listeners, even if their hearing is not quite as finely tuned as mine.

    I was warned that audio sync would be problematic for the first quarter-hour of the film by a friend of mine, but I did not notice any serious problems on either of my players. I always enjoy an audio sync problem on films that I am not particularly fond of, since they add a slight comedic factor to an otherwise very dull film. In any case, I guess that Columbia were determined to torture me as hard as they possibly could because of my propensity for bagging their price point, and they didn't give me any audio sync relief. The slightest threat of sync problems occurred from time to time during the first twenty minutes of the film, but overall the audio sync seems to be spot on. Owners of Pioneer players may have a problem with this disc, but that's perfectly okay since I am not one of them. It would have made this film a little more interesting if some of the dialogue was about half a second or more out of sync, since it would have made the damned thing funny and given the appearance that the sound engineers put as much effort into their work as the script writers.

    The score music by David Lawrence was fairly ordinary, with little of it really coming out to assert its presence. Personally, if I were making a film of this tired, stale genre, I would have commissioned more satirical artists such as The Residents to make music that truly sends up or summarizes the actions and thoughts of the on-screen characters. Nonetheless, the music, which features a fair amount of skilful guitar work, was quite pleasant to listen to when it was noticeable. In this respect, it was probably the best thing about the movie.

    The surround channels were used in moderate amounts to support the music and ambient sounds, and they did a reasonable job of helping to draw the listener into the movie. I could just feel them clutching me by the limbs and pulling me towards the picture on the screen, with me screaming and crying all the way. In that manner, they were doing a much better job than most of the actors. The subwoofer was used in moderation to support the music, and it remained subtle rather than omnipresent with its integration into the overall mix.

Extras

    Well, it's one of those Collector's Editions, and this title justifies the moniker with its selection of extras. At least in quantity. One thing I just have to get off my chest is my amazement that this film gets 16x9 Enhancement when much more deserving films like Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story don't.

Menu

    The menu is presented as a computer-screen style that looks like a Mac interface. It is 16x9 enhanced. The main menu animation and audio helps to maintain the overall tone of the film.

Featurette - Spotlight On Location

    A promotional featurette, but a better one than your average extended trailer that can be found on other DVDs that sport this feature.

Audio Commentary - Paul Weitz (Director), Chris Weitz (Producer), Adam Herz (Writer), Seann William Scott (Actor), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Actor), and Jason Biggs (Actor)

    This commentary starts quite slowly, and given that the film is not of any particular interest to me, the slow start never quite left me even when the participants finally get themselves into a certain gear marked "talking about something reasonably interesting". Lots of insight is offered into the process of making this film, with even some subtle continuity faults pointed out.

Outtakes

    The quality is somewhat lacking, but this is an amusing collection of bloopers, all the same.

Music Highlights/Classic Quotes

    Links to the appropriate points in the film. These are little more than overly specific scene selection menus.

Production Notes

    If you're interested in the production values that went into the film, then this is worthy of a read.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies are provided for Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann W. Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Eugene Levy, and director Paul Weitz. They are of somewhat limited interest, but worth reading once.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, without 16x9 enhancement and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It makes the film appear a bit more insipid than it actually is, which is a terrible pity when you consider the mindless laughter factor of the film.

DVD-ROM Content

    A mirror of the web site used to publicize this film. Why this kind of DVD-ROM-only crud is still being inflicted on us is a mystery to me. The vast majority of the populace are not computer-literate enough to take advantage of such features. Please, film distributors, get them the hell of my DVDs!

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Two versions of American Pie are available in Region 1: the R-rated theatrical release and an unrated version that presumably had some content taken out in order to avoid a rating that would restrict sales too much (just like the two Region 1 releases of Robocop). The total difference between these two versions is less than five minutes worth of footage, so I don't consider the unrated version worthy of sourcing at the higher price. The Region 4 release of this film is equivalent to Region 1's R-rated version.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    Given that the differences between all the versions available of this film are very trivial at best, I believe that Region 4 is the version to go for.

Summary

    The advertising had led me to believe that I was really going to hate American Pie. While it didn't quite meet that expectation, it is hardly what I would call an inspiring film. It is presented on a reasonably good DVD.

    The video quality is good, but it should have been much better.

    The audio quality is good as far as films of this kind go.

    The extras are comprehensive.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Friday, April 21, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersPanasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Steve K
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - Michael D (read my bio)
DVDownUnder - Paul J
NZHT - Damon B
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Kevin S
The DVD Bits - Vincent C
impulsegamer.com - Tory Favro

Comments (Add) NONE