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Amy Heckerling
Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd, Donald Faison, Elisa Donovan, Breckin Meyer, Jeremy Sisto
Writing Credits:
Amy Heckerling

Sex. Clothes. Popularity. Is there a problem here?

This twisted adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Emma follows a Beverly Hills teen (Silverstone) trying to do good at her high school by matchmaking teachers and making over dowdy classmates.

Box Office:
$20 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.612 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$49.403 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $ 12.98
Release Date: 8/30/05

• “The Class of ‘95” Featurette
• “Creative Writing” Featurette
• “Fashion 101” Featurette
• “Language Arts” Featurette
• “Suck ‘N Blow – A Tutorial”
• “Driver’s Ed”
• “We’re History” Featurette
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Clueless: "Whatever!" Edition (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 15, 2007)

With 1995’s Clueless, we get a brighter than usual look at high school life. The movie follows the adventures of teen trendmaker Cher (Alicia Silverstone), the daughter of a well-to-do southern California lawyer (Dan Hedaya). She lives a very cushy life along with similarly spoiled pal Dionne (Stacey Dash).

When her stepbrother Josh (Paul Rudd) comes to town, the pair bicker due to their rather different outlooks on life. College boy Josh maintains a more serious, altruistic view toward the world and challenges self-absorbed Cher to do the same. She initially resists his jibes but eventually they get to her and she decides to do something about it.

After Cher manages to play matchmaker, she gets a high from her good deed. To maintain this feeling, she decides to help a “clueless” new student named Tai (Brittany Murphy). A fashion disaster, Cher works to remake Tai in her own image. The movie follows these efforts and their results as well as Cher’s romantic efforts. She falls for Christian (Justin Walker), a student who returns to her school for the second semester. We see her attempts to land him along with other conflicts when she gains romantic attention from an unlikely party.

12 years after its release, I expected Clueless to suffer from a lot of dated elements. Indeed, its era occasionally rears its ugly head through its dated music and pop culture references. However, these create surprisingly few distractions, at least for those of us who still remember the 90s well.

And that’s probably most of the audience for Clueless, as I have no idea if it’ll be a timeless piece of teen entertainment. I do think it’ll hold up well for younger kids, though, since I don’t see a lot of dated elements. The film embodies a certain universal feel about high school that resonates if you graduated in 2005, 1995, or 1985 like some old fart writing this review.

Much of the credit goes to writer/director Amy Heckerling. Via 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, she made one of the 80s best remembered teen flicks, and she manages to do just as well here. Heckerling keeps a tight rein on the flick and doesn’t bog it down in unnecessary moments. She juggles a lot of balls as we follow Cher’s path and makes sure that the story advances as we enjoy the gags.

Perhaps Heckerling’s biggest achievement comes from the heart exhibited by Clueless. For its first act, it functions mainly as a parody of spoiled teens. Cher certainly comes across as a potentially unlikable brat, and only the fact that we see her as a caricature redeems her.

However – wonder of wonders – Heckerling actually manages to turn the tale in such a way that it develops into something natural and even believable. Cher and her pals go from superficial, one-dimensional snobs to pretty likable and three-dimensional personalities. This is a very neat trick, since I didn’t think such a feat could be accomplished via these cartoony characters.

Of course, some of the credit goes to the actors, with a big nod in the direction of Silverstone. She maintains a light charm as Cher that makes it not hate her even at her brattiest. We easily could become so annoyed at Cher in the first act that the rest of the film could never redeem her, but Silverstone’s easy innocence makes sure that we like her in spite of her excesses.

Again, it helps that Heckerling frontloads those excesses into the movie’s first act. That’s the part that most aggressively acts to spoof the lifestyles of the rich and spoiled. We still get some of those elements in the rest of the movie – Christian’s faux Rat Pack hipster in act two stands out in that regard – but the story and character aspects dominate the movie’s final hour. We focus less on cartooniness and more on heart.

And that remains the word I most attach to Clueless, though I also think of it as bright, funny and endearing. Though the film easily could have degenerated into a simple and mean-spirited attack on conspicuous consumerism, it decided to go down a more memorable path. Clueless ends up as a rare teen flick that also appeals to the oldsters in the audience.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Clueless appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Much of the picture looked fine, but enough problems manifested themselves to create some distractions.

Sharpness usually came across acceptably well. Softness crept into a mix of shots, but those remained fairly minor. The majority of the flick looked pretty good. No shimmering or jaggies showed up, but some edge enhancement became apparent. As for source flaws, I noticed occasional examples of specks and marks, but these weren’t too prominent.

Colors were decent but not better than that. At times, they took on nice signs of brightness and definition. However, they also could be a bit flat and drab. Too many daytime outdoors shots looked a little bland for me. Black levels appeared deep and rich, while shadow detail was decent. A few shots seemed somewhat dense, but mostly the low-light images were appropriately delineated. This transfer ended up as pretty average.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Clueless, it seemed fine but it didn’t excel because of a lack of ambition. Like most comedies, the movie featured a limited soundfield that strongly favored the forward channels. It showed very nice stereo spread to the music as well as some general ambience from the sides.

Panning was decent, and the surrounds usually kicked in basic reinforcement. A few scenes opened up better, though, especially in the parties. Heck, a couple of sequences even offered some pretty solid split surround material, such as when a helicopter floated around one outdoor sequence. These were the exceptions to the rule, however, as most of the movie stayed with limited imaging.

Audio quality appeared good. Speech was natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, with good fidelity and no signs of distortion. Music was perfectly fine, as the score and songs showed decent dimensionality. This track was good enough for a “B-“ but didn’t particularly impress.

For this “Whatever!” edition of Clueless, we find a collection of extras. Most of these come in the form of featurettes. The Class of ‘95 goes for 18 minutes, 30 seconds as it presents movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from writer/director Amy Heckerling, associate producer Twink Caplan, casting director Marcia Ross, director of photography Bill Pope, and actors Breckin Meyer, Alicia Silverstone (in 1995), Brittany Murphy, Stacey Dash, Donald Faison, Paul Rudd, Dan Hedaya, Justin Walker and Wallace Shawn. “Class” looks at casting, characters and performances. We get a very nice overview of the different personalities and learn a lot of fun notes in this useful little piece.

For the nine-minute and 38-second Creative Writing, we find remarks from Heckerling, Caplan, and Pope. We learn about the flick’s development and story ideas, the film’s take on Beverly Hills and high school, various influences, issues getting a studio to back the flick, visual design, and a few other production elements. “Writing” becomes a bit scattered, as its focus flits around in different ways. Nonetheless, it includes more interesting information and keeps us occupied.

Fashion 101 goes for 10 minutes, 46 seconds and includes Faison, Caplan, Heckerling, Dash, Murphy, Meyer, Walker, makeup artist Alan Friedman, actor Elisa Donovan and costume designer Mona May. As implied by the title, “Fashion” looks at the movie’s clothes. We learn how the outfits were adapted for the different outfits and get info about what May hoped to achieve with her designs. It’s another fun and fact-packed show.

During the eight-minute and eight-second Language Arts, we get comments from Silverstone (1995), Heckerling, Faison, Murphy, Caplan, Walker, Meyer, Donovan, and Dash. The featurette looks at the movie’s slang. We find a good overview of how the flick’s distinctive dialogue emerged and also get a glossary of what some of the terms mean. It’s an entertaining segment.

For Suck ‘N Blow – A Tutorial, we get a two-minute, 47-second piece. It takes us to the set for the “suck ‘n blow” scene and we see aspects of its creation. A few decent snippets appear, but it’s fluffier and less substantial than the other programs.

Driver’s Ed lasts three minutes, 49 seconds and features Faison, Heckerling, Pope, and Dash. We see the filming of the clip where Dionne ends up on the freeway. Some raw footage adds to the piece, and we find some good details about this sequence.

Finally, We’re History fills eight minutes, 50 seconds with notes from Heckerling, Pope, Shawn, Faison, Caplan, Donovan, Walker, Meyer, Murphy, Hedaya, and Dash. We hear about working with Heckerling as well as reactions to the film and its reception. A few decent notes pop up here, but it feels a little more self-congratulatory than I’d like.

Inside the Trailers area, we find the flick’s teaser and theatrical promos. A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Airplane!, Charmed, Mad Hot Ballroom, Laguna Beach, The Brady Bunch and Tommy Boy. These also appear in the disc’s Previews area.

Back in 1995, Clueless offered a surprisingly taut and funny little teen comedy. In 2007, it remains just as effective – much to my surprise. The movie’s aged quite well, largely thanks to crisp writing and nice performances. The DVD offers acceptable picture and sound along with a mix of short but generally interesting extras. While I can’t call this a great release, the movie is a lot of fun, and with a very reasonable list price of less than $13, it’s a good DVD to own.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1818 Stars Number of Votes: 11
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