Fast Times At Ridgemont High: Collector's Edition (DVD)

Fast Times At Ridgemont High: Collector's Edition (DVD)

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Fast Times At Ridgemont High: Collector's Edition (DVD)

If only because they offer something different and don't take themselves terribly seriously, the best of the recent wave of teen films have been sporadically refreshing. But in the pile containing She's All That and Drive Me Crazy, you won't find a film as good as 1982's Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Working from the former's reality-based novel, Cameron Crowe and director Amy Heckerling crafted a Trojan horse of a teen comedy that balanced lowbrow gags with subtle humor, genuine insight—Crowe spent a year undercover as a high-school student—and pathos. In Heckerling's film, Ridgemont High itself is only slightly less cartoonish than the Vince Lombardi High of Rock 'n' Roll High School. The characters inhabiting it, on the other hand, have an air of truth about them, whether Judge Reinhold's downward-spiraling senior, Jennifer Jason Leigh's inexperienced mall fixture, or even Sean Penn's stoned surfer, brought in for comic relief but given tremendous substance. Heckerling and Crowe give lie to the stereotypical California teen existence while never losing sight of the fact that they're making a comedy. It helps that they're smart enough to dwell on the real pressures faced by their characters without passing judgement or bringing in a magical prom to solve all their problems. The audio commentary by Heckerling and Crowe highlights this DVD version; it's not incredibly revealing, but their fondness and enthusiasm nicely enhances the film. The same can't be said for a slapdash documentary or the failure to include numerous alternate scenes that turn up in TV prints—scenes the filmmakers indicate are as interesting as some of those included. Still, Ridgemont High is as well worth revisiting for viewers as it clearly was for Heckerling and Crowe. The current makers and consumers of teen comedies could learn a lesson or two from its many charms.