If you follow me on Twitter, and I would advise you not to, the other day I pondered about the general existence of the new American Reunion movie coming soon, the fourth (?) sequel to American Pie. I wondered simply, why did we need another installment of this movie when I’d much rather watch a reunion of the cast of say… Can’t Hardly Wait? One of my favorite movies from high school, it is part of my personal high school trilogy that I would like to share with you.
Full disclosure first, I actually graduated high school in 1999, which means I graduated in the Nineties, which means I’m feeling old, which basically means I stopped going to Eighties clubs once kids who hadn’t been born in that decade starting showing up. So, my high school trilogy consists of three films that I watched constantly during high school. They aren’t necessarily my favorite high school movies, (Back to the Future and Rushmore) the best teen movies or even set primarily at a school. They are Clueless, Empire Records and Can’t Hardly Wait.
Clueless probably is the best known, certainly one of the most popular high school/Nineties movie ever. Quoted constantly by anyone who has seen it more than twice, it’s strange now to think that people actually talked that way, at least in certain parts of the country. It also featured three female leads, which is trivial now, but at the time was quite groundbreaking. Written and directed by Amy Heckerling, it broke from most teen movies that were primarily targeted to young men, but honestly, I know just as many guys that love that movie as girls. Like the best films, the characters appear to be stereotypes at first, in order to draw the audience in and make them relatable. But, slowly we get to know them and love them and their world, which makes Clueless not only a great movie, but a memorable one. It’s way existential.
Now, Empire Records doesn’t take place in school and its characters are mostly in the transition out of high school and into college and so on. With such heavy issues as teen promiscuity, drug addiction, parental pressure and suicide, it’s almost more of a drama with a few jokes sprinkled in here and there. But, at it’s heart it captures what it felt like to be a teenager. Lost, indecisive, afraid, manic and living with the constant thought that every decision you make will have far reaching repercussions for the rest of your life. I know I felt like that when I was that age in the late Nineties and Empire made me feel like maybe I would end up with Liv Tyler after all.
Finally, Can’t Hardly Wait is the most fun I have with my high school trilogy. I can watch it every day, twice a day… they’re triplets, man and never get tired of it. It has a great cast, with some of my favorite people like Jennifer Love Hewitt, Seth Green, Melissa Joan Hart, Ethan Embry and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s breasts. I quote Kenny’s monologue about honeys at UCLA at the drop of a backwards hat, I’ve gotten black out drunk and sang Paradise City at karaoke and oh, did you hear Mike Dexter broke up with Amanda? Thinking about asking her out boy, time to get freaky! I’ve never met Jennifer Love Hewitt, but I got a really good letter to give her if I do and if I ever get the chance, I’m sure I’ll do it better than Preston. And it’s a better party movie than Project X.
And by the way, who doesn’t own at least one of these soundtracks? They all share music by some great 90’s band like No Doubt, Gin Blossoms, Radiohead, The Cranberries and Blink 182. There’s also music by some very Nineties 90’s bands like Smashmouth, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Missy and Timbaland, Third Eye Blind and Domino. All the soundtracks feature various classics by David Bowie, Beastie Boys, AC/DC, Run DMC, Guns N Roses, and of course, Barry Manilow. Two of them have the same Dire Straits song and one of them even turned its fictional musical character into an act that can trend worldwide if it’s on cable.
I don’t want to be like, a traitor to my generation but I think after the short lived Clueless television series, there’s really no need to check back in with those characters. Also, having had owned both the regular DVD and the Remix! Special Fan Edition of Empire, stick with the bare bones original. The cut on the SE DVD has too many weird choices that kinda take away from the film and make you realize that you’re watching something different. And I decided an Empire sequel would be better as long as we didn’t call it Empire Strikes Back. So, the plot line for Empire Records: Long Live The Empire follows Lucas as the new manager of the story, still on thin ice with Joe, the owner, as the store is starting to fail under his leadership. Despite his protests that iPods and Amazon are to blame, after an accidental fire in the safe room that Warren starts, Lucas finds himself as the man, forced to try to liquidate the Empire to pull Joe even with the cost of the repairs, keep Warren out of jail and prove to everybody that he can do something with himself.