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Universal Studios Home Video presents
"All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I'm fine."
DVD ReviewLong before they starred in award-winning serious dramas and big-budget romantic comedies, a cast of young unknowns participated in a groundbreaking cult favorite that remains popular today. Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, and many others helped to create success for a picture that studio heads considered a waste of time. Its frank treatment of teen drug use and sexuality nearly earned the film an "X" rating from the MPAA. Considering the ratings system of modern cinema, that fact seems a bit surprising, but in 1982 teen films concerning adult issues were a rare occurrence.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High originated with the book by journalist Cameron Crowe, who spent a year masquerading as a high school student for research purposes. Director Amy Heckerling took Crowe's insightful screenplay and crafted an entertaining, yet unconventional comedy that still surprises teenagers in 2004. The clothes, music, and settings definitely match the early '80s time period, and some appear ridiculously out of style, but the themes are universal for teens of many generations. The young characters behave like adults in terms of sex, but they possess few ideas about the more emotional aspects of the activity. They must learn the hard way about these issues and face difficult situations because of their behavior.
The description above might prepare you for a somber film, but that is very far from the truth. This story is often lighthearted, and that element is embodied by the surfer Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn). His lines and mannerisms have been copied by numerous films, but he still stands out as the original drugged-out slacker. His conflicts with the authoritarian Mr. Hand (Ray Walston) are some of the movie's best scenes, as both characters test the other's mettle consistently. Spicoli's buddies are played by two actors who would eventually become major stars, Eric Stoltz and Anthony Edwards. In their first roles, the actors barely make an impression, but their inclusion is indicative of the talent assembled.
Much of the story revolves around the plight of Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh)—a 15-year-old girl learning about sex more quickly than she would like. Posing as someone four years older, she is picked up by a studly 26-year-old for a slightly creepy encounter at "The Point." Her attention is better focused on Matt "Rat" Ratner (Brian Backer), the "nice guy" totally smitten with her during biology class. But further complications will ensue for Stacy that will cause her to grow up very quickly. Rat spends much of time with the smooth ticket scalper Mike (Robert Romanus), whose claims about his prowess with women may be exagerrated. The story includes an array of other worthy supporting actors, including the stunning and very young Phoebe Cates, and Judge Reinhold, who acts as goofy as always.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High does appear a bit dated today and falls a bit short of being a "must-add" to your DVD collection. However, Crowe and Heckerling definitely struck a nerve with their depiction of high-school kids that has rarely been repeated in teen films of the past 20 years. The film is full of classic moments, including Forrest Whitaker going crazy in a football game, Cates owning the screen at the pool in a steamy fantasy sequence, nearly every scene involving Penn, and many others. Even given some silly outfits and music cues, this story still has plenty to offer for both adults and the teens of today.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Fast Times at Ridgemont High includes a solid 1.85:1 widescreen anormphic transfer that presents the story in clear fashion. However, it does contain a decent amount of grain and minor defects that keep its rating below many other current releases. The images have been remastered from their initial format, but the attention to detail does not appear as strict as you might expect. That said, the overall product is still acceptable throughout the feature.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: This disc provides an audio presentation that improves considerably over its image transfer. You may choose between both DTS and Dolby Digital transfers, and neither option is a bad choice. The numerous musical cues spring well from both the front and rear speakers, leading to an enjoyable listening experience. These tracks could be slightly clearer, but that negative is very minor and does not distract from the film.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Happy Gilmore/Billy Madison DVD, Quantum Leap: Season 2 DVD, Seed of Chucky
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Amy Heckerling and Screenwriter Cameron Crowe
Packaging: custom cardboard cover with sl
Additional supplements direct you to specific moments within the film. Viewers wondering about specific songs will enjoy the countless '80s music highlights, which list the band and title while linking you to the scene. The "Cool Hangouts of Ridgemont High" map also showcases the different settings and connects you to the film. Several easter eggs can be located easily by clicking on the footprints at the top of the screen. They lead you to classic quotes (many be Jeff Spicoli) and also send you into the movie. The remaining extras include decent production notes, the original trailer, and a list of the cast and filmmakers. Several other previews also appear in annoying fashion prior to reaching the menu.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsFast Times at Ridgemont High is being offered by itself and as a two-pack with Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater's look at partying high-school kids from the '70s. Both films cover much-different time periods, but the common thread is an honest look at kids and how they really act. I prefere Linklater's picture for its more timeless qualities, but both deserve a strong recommendation.
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