Fast Times at Ridgemont High


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Rating: R

Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Stacy Hamilton
Judge Reinhold as Brad Hamilton
Robert Romanus as Mike Damone
Brian Backer as Mark ‘Rat’ Ratner
Phoebe Cates as Linda Barrett
Ray Walston as Mr. Hand
Scott Thomson as Arnold
Vincent Schiavelli as Mr. Vargas
Amanda Wyss as Lisa
D.W. Brown as Ron Johnson, stereo salesman
Forest Whitaker as Charles Jefferson
Zoe Kelli Simon as Cindy
Tom Nolan as Dennis Taylor, burger manager
Blair Ashleigh as Pat Bernardo
Nicolas Cage as Brad’s Bud

Special Features:
Feature Commentary with Director Amy Heckerling and Screenwriter Cameron Crowe

Reliving Our Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Hangouts of Ridgemont High Video Map

Production Notes

Cast and Filmmakers

Theatrical Trailer

Music Highlights

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 1 Hours 30 Minutes

The following is the official description of the DVD:

“Academy Award-winner Sean Penn leads an all-star cast (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, Ray Walston) in this hilarious portrayal of a group of southern California high school students and their most important subjects: sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Amy Heckerling’s (Clueless) directorial debut brings to life first-time screenwriter Cameron Crowe’s (Almost Famous) insider’s view of teenage American life in the 1980’s.

Featuring decade-defining music from The Go-Go’s, Oingo Boingo and The Cars, plus film debuts of future stars Nicolas Cage, Eric Stoltz and Anthony Edwards, Fast Times at Ridgemont High remains as fresh and funny today as it was a generation ago when it defined the outrageous and bold teen comedy genre.”

This DVD is rated R.

The Movie:
For whatever reason, I had never seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High until it arrived on DVD. Despite never having viewed the film, I was familiar with many elements of it. Who hasn’t seen a clip of Spicoli’s line, “Hey Bud, let’s party!” So with the film on home video, I was able to go a little deeper than the quotable quotes seen in advertisements.

I was expecting an 80’s teen comedy with a lot of sex, drugs, rowdiness, and anti-establishment messages. These elements were definitely in the film. What I wasn’t expecting was a hard look at teen sex and the implications of it wrapped up within this package. While this movie doesn’t delve into the issues as deeply as it could have, it does so more than any other teen comedy from the 80’s that I know of.

While the film is very much dated in a lot of ways, it still has one big novelty going for it. It features a ton of big names stars from when they were young. First and foremost among them is Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli. His surfer dude character was such a memorable part of his career that it’s often hard to see the Academy Award winner without thinking of him hitting his head with his shoe and saying, “That was my skull!” This role is also why it’s hard to take Penn seriously as a political activist battling Bush and be-bopping around Iraq.

The second most notable actor in the film is a baby faced Jennifer Jason Leigh as Stacy Hamilton. She looks so incredibly young and so different from her image in later films that it’s hard to believe it is her. Despite her young and innocent appearance, this is probably one of her more raunchy roles. She is show nude in a number of sex scenes. I realize that director Amy Heckerling did this to add a bit of shock that this seemingly innocent character would do all these things, but it really ends up coming across as gratuitous. The role is deepened, though, by an abortion sub-plot. Unfortunately, much of the issue and its repercussions for young teens are glossed over. Still, it’s a memorable role for Leigh.

Then you have Judge Reinhold as Brad Hamilton. This film really put him on the map and led him to the high point of his career. Phoebe Cates is also gorgeous as Linda Barrett, Ray Walston leaves behind The Martian as Mr. Hand, and Forest Whitaker intimidates as Charles Jefferson. Also look for brief cameos by Anthony Edwards (Top Gun, E.R.), Nicolas Cage as Brad’s Bud, and Eric Stoltz as Spicoli’s buddy.

Fast Times also features a great classic rock / 80’s soundtrack. There’s music by Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffett, The Go-Go’s, Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Joe Walsh, Led Zeppelin, and more.

If you’ve already seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High, then you know whether or not the DVD is worth getting. If you haven’t seen it, then probably the best reason to check it out would be to see the wide variety of big name stars early in their careers. Cameron Crowe fans will also be interested in seeing this early work by him.

The Extras:
There are a number of extras included on this DVD. Here are the highlights:

Feature Commentary with Director Amy Heckerling and Screenwriter Cameron Crowe – This is a pretty informative commentary by Heckerling and Crowe though it can be a tad dry at times. They throw out trivia about filming, stuff about the characters, tales of fights to get stuff in the film, and more. This is also the only place you’ll find Cameron Crowe in the bonus features.

Reliving Our Fast Times at Ridgemont High – This is a pretty good documentary about the making of the film. A large number of the original cast come back to talk about the movie including Sean Penn. (Leigh, Cates, Edwards, and Whitaker don’t reminisce with them, though.) Amy Heckerling talks about the casting, the script, the challenges of making the film, the fights with the studio, and more. It’s a really good retrospective on the making of the movie.

Hangouts of Ridgemont High Video Map – This shows short videos of the locations they shot the movie at in California.

The Bottom Line:
If you’re into raunchy teen comedies or if you want to see a bunch of big name stars before they were famous, then Fast Times at Ridgemont High is for you.