FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982) / DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993). Universal Studios' DVD branch has released these two titles together under the subhead Ultimate Party Collection, but there's a key difference between the movies: Fast Times was an 80s film about the 80s, while Dazed was a 90s flick about the 70s. In this instance anyway, nostalgia clearly trumps immediacy. With Dazed, writer-director Richard Linklater (The School of Rock) offers an infectious ode to wasted youth (in both senses of the term) in 1976 Middle America, following a group of high schoolers around as they kick off their summer vacation by getting drunk, getting high and trying to get laid. The film is virtually plotless, yet by nailing the look, the music and the dialogue of the era, Linklater generates a you-are-there vibe as he examines a period when indulging in vices was viewed as a coming-of-age rite of passage rather than a life-threatening act of immorality. The cast includes such up-and-comers as Ben Affleck and Parker Posey, and that's Matthew McConaughey who delivers the film's most famous line as jailbait-dating Wooderson: "That's what I love about these high school girls; I get older, they stay the same age." Fast Times, directed by Amy Heckerling from a script by Almost Famous's Cameron Crowe, has always struck me as overrated, and a recent revisit did little to change my mind. The filmmakers' attempts to capture the "real" high school experience run hot and cold, while the comedy quotient just doesn't cut it: The ballyhooed scenes between Sean Penn's surfer bum Jeff Spicoli and Ray Walston's stern teacher Mr. Hand seem like blueprints for a comedy sketch more than fully realized set pieces. Jennifer Jason Leigh is affecting as the naive kid determined to lose her virginity, and star gazers can catch early appearances by Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards and Nicolas Cage (still billing himself as Nicolas Coppola). Extras in this two-disc DVD set include audio commentary, deleted scenes and a couple of public service announcements from the 70s (including the famous "Crying Indian" TV spot).
Dazed and Confused:
Fast Times at Ridgemont High: