This is the summer of on-screen sex gross-outs
In the math of publications obsessively devoted to the self-serving perpetuation of pop culture, it takes three to make a trend. Three scary movies and we declare the Summer of Fright; three snappy novels about the sex lives of single women and we announce it’s the Summer of ”Bridget Jones’s Diary” Imitators; three starlets photographed wearing bracelets woven from dental floss at, say, the Mentos Minty Fresh Choice TV-Advertising Awards Show, and dental floss becomes a fashion accessory approved by ”In Style” (and other) magazines.
By such reckoning, semen is now the funniest, trendiest fluid on the planet.
Consider: It’s a thigh-slapper in ”Happiness.” It’s a hair-raiser in ”There’s Something About Mary.” And beginning this weekend, it’s a gag-inducer in ”American Pie,” the likably dorky new teen-sex comedy that is — as EW declares — a proud addition to the great tradition of comedies about horny virgins, as well as a prime example of the movies’ 1999 Summer of Raunch.
Funniest? Well, funny enough. I won’t describe the specifics of the scene in ”American Pie” that, ahem, climaxes with this potent punchline. Just know that, like the solitary, dessert-specific activity that gives ”Pie” its lubricious title, the joke is designed to gross out a restless, ”South Park”-savvy audience for whom the gross-out bar is already set mighty high. And it succeeds. (The appreciative audience I saw it with groaned in ways that must make the filmmakers very proud.)
But I will describe that, while I was prepared — nay, fellow raunchophiles, eager — to laugh, my reaction was one… of comedia interruptus. Ah, I thought, here comes the old masturbation moment again. Old! It’s just one year after ”There’s Something About Mary” and a certain ”shocking” level of comic sexual rawness has been reduced to just so much hair gel. That’s the trouble with trends. Eventually even the farthest edges of the envelope look dog-eared. Thirty-five years ago, Sterling Hayden, as the bonkers Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant black comedy ”Dr. Strangelove,” beguiled audiences with his mad talk of hoarding his ”precious bodily fluids.” A dozen years later, Woody convulsed swinging moviegoers playing a sperm in ”Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex.” Both films incorporated biting commentary about sex that is as affecting and funny today as it was a generation ago.
Neither, though, spawned imitators, or starlets dressed in sperm fashions, so who remembers their daring? No wonder we think ”American Pie” is so… fresh.