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FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982) ***

I watched most of this movie the other night on TV and wasn’t going to review it because I have a stern rule that I have to watch the entire movie before I write my review.  But since I’ve already seen the flick about seven or eight times, I guess it would be okay if I just go ahead and tell ya my thoughts on it.  Simply put, this movie has legions of loyal followers but for me; Fast Times at Ridgemont High has always fallen into the Good-Not-Great category. 

 

You know, friends of mine say that this is a “comedy classic” but the truth of the matter is that it’s not really all that funny.  Although the scenes with stoner extraordinaire Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) are amusing (especially his dream sequence), they’ve never made me really laugh out loud.  And the scene late in the movie where Jennifer Jason Leigh has to get an impromptu abortion isn’t the sort of thing you’d usually find in a so-called comedy.

 

Fast Times isn’t really a comedy but more of a sharply observed teen flick.  What humor there is comes from the awkwardness and humiliation of being a teenager.  Take for instance the scene where Robert Romanus jizzes in less than ten seconds when he’s banging Leigh.  Again, not exactly laugh out loud funny.  You smirk because that’s how most teenage rolls in the hay are, but it’s not like you’re busting a gut laughing or anything.

 

The film also feels pretty disjointed as most of the characters’ stories are only tenuously related.  I guess stoners love this flick because of Spicoli, but to me the movie really belongs to Judge Reinhold as Brad.  He delivers what is not only the best performance in the movie, but also the best performance of his career.  Brad continuously gets shit on through the course of the flick and Reinhold always plays things in a very believable manner.  Leigh is good too, and Phoebe Cates looks yummy when coming out of the pool.

 

I think the movie has improved with age too.  Now it works on two new levels:  As 80’s nostalgia (every time I see it, it makes me want to dust off my old pair of Vans) and as a Before They Were Famous flick.  Not only did star Sean Penn go on to win an Oscar (and become a Hall of Fame Douchebag), so did supporting actor Forest Whitaker and bit player Nicolas Cage (billed under his real name, Nicolas Coppola).  To me, watching Fast Times is fun to see a small moment in time where future Oscar winners could be starring alongside future B movie scream queens like Kelli (Night of the Comet) Maroney, Pamela (the Sleepaway Camp sequels) Springsteen, and Amanda (A Nightmare on Elm Street) Wyss.

 

As you can see, I have a lot of nice things to say about Fast Times at Ridgemont High, yet I can’t quite bring myself to cave in and call it a “comedy classic" like so many of you out there.  Still, I do have a rule that any movie I’ve seen more than ten times gets an automatic Four Star rating.  That means only two more viewings and it’ll get the Four Star treatment.  Check back with me in a few years and maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to drink the Comedy Classic Kool-Aid.

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