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Critiquing The Movie, “American Pie”

Borgman, Dean. Critiquing the movie, “American Pie.” S. Hamilton, MA


American Pie, 1999, Rated R, sex, vulgarity, teenage drinking and sex, some nudity

We are not encouraging anyone to see this show. But if you are in a classroom or youth group where young people are talking about the movie, or have seen it, or maybe even have heard others talking about it, here are some ways in which you might process the flood of exploitative teenage films that come along.

First, consider these advertisements for the movie:

  • America’s #1 Comedy! Excruciatingly FUNNY
  • Mercilously Hilarious! Some of the Year’s Best Comic Performances
  • A cool, clean movie with some hints of inappropriate material

In another view of this film, the conservative Child Care Action Project (CAP) says in part:

The movie starts out with a teen boy watching a porn flick on cable TV (scrambled but audio present)…The boy…performed this act (masturbation) with an apple pie, thus the name of the show. There are scenes with all the sounds and motions of oral sex-more than once. One of the recipients of this ‘favor’ deposited into a cup of beer which was later drunk by another boy. (The movie also contains) four instances of teen drinking…rear male nudity…eight foul words…and God’s name taken in vain six times…yet another attempt by Hollywood to lower the standards of acceptance and to raise the expectation of vulgarity even further.

Entertainment Weekly (July 23, 1999) says of this movie: “Putting a tailspin on adolescent awakening, the tart but sweet American Pie is a high school sex comedy that hits home.” The review, by Owen Gleiberman, adds, “the movie marks a major shift in contemporary teen culture by making the girls as hip to sex as the boys.”

We discussed this film with a Christian college age student who had seen it and described it as a “bad movie.” He attributed its “badness” to sex and vulgarity. But he also said he found…his high school days. Discussing these scenes might help teenagers process the content of what they watch and take for granted. It can also raise other issues needing to be addressed.

The opening scene may better be referred to than watched. What is its intent? What is it trying to say? What needs to be discussed beyond such vulgar humor?

There is another scene in which the guys are vowing to lose their virginity by or on Senior Prom Night-this may be an even more important issue. The following questions could emerge from a discussion of this particular part of the movie: What do teenagers see as their rite of passage to adulthood? How strong is peer pressure to have sex before one is ready? How can girls respond to the predatory nature of boys? Are girls ever the initiators of premature sexual intimacy? For what reasons? When and how do you want to lose your virginity?

The clip of the guys’ discussion could be followed with the scene of the girl asking the boy to say “I love you” before they have sex…and then by the scene of their break-up the next day.

It should be possible for caring mentors to help young people move from cheap laughs to valuable discoveries and courageous self-determination.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Would you ever see this movie? Why or why not?
  2. How would you critique this kind of a movie? Could you critique it from reviews and from talking to kids and others who have seen it-without seeing it yourself?
  3. Is there any advantage for leaders and parents to know something about these movies?
  4. Would you consider clipping the tamest part of the kid watching the porno station to begin a discussion of the temptation of Internet and cable these days?
  5. Could you use the scene of kids talking about losing their virginity as a rite of passage and then the girl’s asking her boyfriend to say “I love you” followed by their breaking up the next day in a discussion about virginity, waiting, and fidelity?

Dean Borgman
© 2018 CYS

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