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Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Totally Awesome Special Edition

The most enduring high school movie of the 1980s, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) is not as valuable for its big laughs as it is for perfectly evoking pre-New Wave mall and high school culture. Backed by a great early '80s song score, director Amy Heckerling's invaluable time capsule (Remember when you could smoke in a movie theater? When Pat Benatar was a fashion icon?) features some iconic characters, most notably Sean Penn's wasted surfer dude Jeff Spicoli. His scenes with ball-busting history teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston) are the funniest in the picture, whereas most of the remaining humor settles for standard sophomoric hijinks, usually involving drug use or sexual humiliation. Surprisingly, though, Fast Times's strength lies in its more serious moments, when it frankly but unsentimentally deals with the awkwardness of youth. Jennifer Jason Leigh, who heads the fine ensemble cast as 15-year-old Stacy, is excellent as an adolescent anxious for sexual experience, and who learns the hard way that some experiences move too fast for her to keep pace with. Adapted from his own novel by Cameron Crowe, who later wrote and directed the seminal youth-oriented movies Say Anything and Almost Famous. For reasons that need not be explained, Fast Times made Phoebe Cates a fixture in the fantasies of a generation of young males. The cast is peppered with early appearances by Judge Reinhold, Forrest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, and, if you look closely, Nicolas Cage (credited as Nicolas Coppola) and Eric Stoltz. Universal's "Totally Awesome Special Edition" offers a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio tracks in the original mono (Dolby Digital 2.0), plus remixes in DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1. The disc also includes the same features found on the previous "Collector's Edition" release of this movie: a commentary track with Heckerling and Crowe, trailers, the documentary Reliving Our Fast Times at Ridgemont High, music highlights, and a video map of hangouts in the film. Keep-case. (Also available in "The Ultimate Party Collection," a 2-pak including the new "Flashback Edition" of Dazed and Confused.)
—Gregory P. Dorr

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