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Clueless (SE)
DVD disk
08.31.2005 By: Scott Weinberg
Clueless (SE) order
Director:
Amy Heckerling

Actors:
Alicia Silverstone
Stacey Dash
Brittany Murphy

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A sweet yet seriously spoiled California Barbie Doll does all she can to help the new girl in school become "cool."
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
If there were a filmmaker who could take the mid-90s female teen persona and turn it into something sly and insightful, it would have to be Amy Heckerling. Director of the unquestioned classic that is Fast Times at Ridgemont High (and a whole slew of other comedies), Ms. Heckerling has an uncanny knack for encapsulating the "teenage experience" -- and she's done it for at least two separate generations.

On paper, Clueless would sound like just about any other high school comedy. It's got the popular girls and the jocks, the dreamboats and the bitches, the stoners and the slackers. But Heckerling is not interested in simply rolling the stock stereotypes through the "feature-length sitcom" blender. There's a real sense of smartness to Clueless, as if the filmmakers were able to acknowledge how very selfish and superficial our teenagers can be -- while being sure to remember that these kids are not much more than products of their own environment and upbringing.

This is why the lead character of Cher, as played wonderfully by the young Alicia Silverstone, comes off as a kind-hearted and well-intentioned young woman ... even if she does look (and occasionally sound) like a shallow little goofball. The wide array of supporting characters offer further proof that Clueless does have a brain in its pretty little head; these are just big kids trying to pretend what "grown-up life" is actually like.

Just as Fast Times helped to kick-start the careers of folks like Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whitaker, Judge Reinhold, and Phoebe Cates, Clueless boasts an ensemble cast that includes Paul Rudd, Donald Faison, Jeremy Sisto, Breckin Meyer, and Brittany Murphy. I remember seeing this flick during its theatrical run ten years ago and thinking "This is a good cast; lots of these kids will be stars." And it looks like I was right! And while it's true that Ms. Silverstone never came close to improving upon her work in Clueless, the simple truth is that she's just drop-dead adorable here ... and I don't just mean that in the aesthetic sense.

Silverstone owns the show, but I say the flick's screenplay is the star. Loosely based on Jane Austen's "Emma," Clueless is packed to the rafters with clever jargon, witty retorts, and outright laughs of varying size. This is a sunny, sweet, surprisingly smart teen comedy that's full of broad laughs, lovable characters, and fantastic performances. Watch it on a double-bill with Mean Girls and you won't have to see another high school comedy until at least 2014.

THE EXTRAS
You'd logically expect a "Whatever! Edition" to contain supplements of special note, and Paramount seems to know pretty damn well which of their catalog titles deserve the "double-dip" treatment. The first release of Clueless was a bare-bones affair (trailers notwithstanding), but here's what you'll get in the new package: The Class of '95 is a rather fun look back that features interview segments with Stacey "Dionne" Dash, Brittany "Tai" Murphy, Donald "Murray" Faison, Paul "Josh" Rudd, Justin "Christian" Walker, Wallace "Mr. Hall" Shawn, Breckin "Travis" Meyer, Dan "Daddy" Hedaya, writer/director Amy Heckerling, cinematographer Bill Pope, associate producer (and "Ms. Geist" actress) Twink Caplan, and casting director Marcia Ross. There's a lot here for the Clueless fans: on-set footage, funny anecdotes, and interviews both new and (ten years) old. Plus the tone of this featurette (and indeed, all the ones mentioned below) is in perfect keeping with the movie: quick, colorful, and full of goofy slangwords. (18:30)

Heckerling gets center stage in Creative Writing, which details the long and frustrating journey it took for Clueless to hit the screens. It's interesting to learn that Clueless was originally ccrafted as a TV series, but was made into a movie instead -- a movie that spawned a somewhat successful TV series. Mr. Pope and Ms. Caplan stop by for a few more production stories, too. (9:38)

Fashion 101 is where costume designer Mona May gets to shine. Heckerling explains that she wanted the outfits to be sort of "hyper-real," and it's tough to deny that she got what she wanted. (10:45)

Language Arts gives us old fogeys an entertaining primer on how to decipher some of the movie's more arcane slanguage. Seems that Ms. Heckerling took even the most throwaway piece of dialogue pretty darn seriously, as she's obviously an expert on the ever-changing world of teenage vernacular. (8:07)

Suck 'N Blow: A Tutorial is an on-set featurette that's not nearly as salacious as it sounds. It's mainly the cast and crew getting ready to film the teenagers' kissing game, only they're having a problem with the props. (2:46)

Driver's Ed has Faison, Pope, Heckerling, and Dash reminiscing over one of Clueless' best set pieces: the suburban teenagers' brief yet chaotic adventure on an actual freeway. (3:48)

We're History is a warm-hearted summing-up of the Clueless phenomenon. All the cast & crew members seem to look back on this particular film with a lot of sincere warmth and gratitude. (8:48)

Strange that Ms. Silverstone did not participate on any of the featurettes, for whatever reason, but those who did stop by for the interview segments helped to put together some great material for the fans. If you're considering a double-dip on this title, rest assured that you're getting some solid goodies for the effort. And as a cherry on top, you'll also get the original Clueless teaser and trailer, plus a bunch of previews for Airplane! The "Don't Call Me Shirley" Edition, Charmed: The Complete First Season, Mad Hot Ballroom, Tommy Boy: The "Holy Schnike" Edition. Laguna Beach: The Complete First Season, and The Brady Bunch: The Complete First Season.

FINAL DIAGNOSIS
The fact that you instantly like these spoiled little rich kids is a testament to Amy Heckerling's skills as a screenwriter. By all accounts we should be rolling our eyes at the "hardships" these kids have to face, but Clueless exists in a slick and colorful alternate reality, one in which the pretty girls are sweet, the stoner kids have heart, the gay kids are accepted without discussion, and the grown-ups actually seem to like the children.
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