Fast Times at Ridgemont High 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. At times the movie looked very good, but a mix of flaws knocked down my overall impression.
Sharpness generally appeared positive. Some softness interfered at times, though, and a smattering of shots came across as a bit ill-defined. Still, most of the flick presented good delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I noticed some light to moderate edge enhancement at times. A number of source flaws marred the presentation. I noticed more than a few instances of specks, grits and blemishes.
On the other hand, the movie presented surprisingly solid colors. The filmís palette tended toward a natural depiction of hues, and they always looked nicely bright and lively. Blacks were deep and dense, while most shadows seemed adequately clear. A few darker shots looked a bit too thick, but those were in the minority. I almost gave Fast Times a ďC+Ē due to the various print defects, but too much of the movie looked too good for me to drop it below a ďB-ď.
Although Fast Times appeared to use the same picture transfer as the 1999 DVD, it offered a different auditory experience. While the old disc went with the movieís original monaural mix, this release included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Across the board, the pair sounded identical, as I noticed no variations between the two.
The tracks marked a moderate improvement over the prior mono track, but donít expect wonders. For the most part, it focused on the front center and didnít do much to spread out from there. With one exception, music demonstrated broad mono and didnít show distinctive stereo imaging. The only example of true stereo came from the Carsí ďMoving in StereoĒ during Bradís fantasy. Effects showed general ambience with a little movement and panning, but they didnít do much. The surrounds followed suit and failed to add much to the package. They reinforced the front in a bland manner and that was it.
Audio quality was mediocre. Speech consistently remained intelligible and without edginess, but the lines sounded flat and thin. Effects usually came across the same way; except for the waves in Spicoliís dream, they lacked life or definition. Music varied depending on the source, but the songs usually were moderately vivid at best. Though some worked better than others, they usually appeared somewhat thin. Nothing terrible marred the presentation, but nothing exciting happened either, so I gave the track a ďCĒ.
While the two DVDs presented identical visuals, the 2004 Fast Times offered auditory improvements. Despite this oneís flat soundtrack, at least it seemed superior to the original mono offering. That mix was very feeble and thin. The new oneís not exactly scintillating, but it did mark an improvement.
Next we head to the setís supplements, almost all of which duplicate what we found on the disc; the only new moments come from some trailers. First up is a pretty good audio commentary from writer Cameron Crowe and director Amy Heckerling, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They cover a mix of subjects but mostly focus on the cast. They tell us about how many of the actors came to the film as well as working with them and various improvisations. We get notes about the movieís tone and battles with the studio who wanted it to be sillier, and we also hear about the music and other production notes. Plenty of cool tidbits emerge, such as the fact the producers tried to hire David Lynch to direct! The track becomes a little too giggly at times, but it includes a lot of solid information and proves to be a winning commentary.
The DVD also features a 39-minute and 14-second documentary called Reliving Our Fast Times At Ridgemont High. The documentary mixes the interviews with film clips and production photos in the standard manner. We get remarks from Heckerling, producer Art Linson, casting director Don Phillips, and actors Judge Reinhold, Scott Thomson, Sean Penn, Eric Stoltz, Robert Romanus, Ray Walston and Brian Backer. They chat about the roots of the story, bringing it to the screen, casting, general anecdotes, its release and reception. The comments about the cast heavily dominate, as the vast majority of the show focuses on that subject. Nothing here stands out; it's very typical of the genre. The biggest surprise comes from the participation of Penn, who I didnít expect to see. It's ultimately a good piece but it seems vaguely lackluster. I liked it, but not tremendously so. Note that some of Heckerling's anecdotes from the commentary are repeated here.
A few other interesting supplements appear on this DVD. One unusual piece is called the Hangouts of Ridgemont High. It's a video "map" of four different locales: the high school itself, "the Point," All-American Burger, and the mall. In four separate clips that each run about 30 to 45 seconds - with a total of approximately two minutes, 40 seconds - we learn a little about the locations used for the film. It's brief but informative.
Among the more standard supplements are a too silly trailer, pretty good cast (seven members) and crew (just Heckerling) biographies, and some fairly strong production notes.
We also have a section of music highlights. This offers links to 19 songs in the soundtrack; click on the song of choice and the disc hops to that point. I can't say I've ever found this feature useful on the DVDs that include it, but it's a nice addition nonetheless.`
Finally, we get an Easter egg. In four different menus on the Fast Times DVD, you'll see images of little bare footprints. Click on these footprints and you'll move to another menu that offers links to "classic quotes." Each of the four menus provides links to four different quotes. Not surprisingly, most of these are from Spicoli, though a few other characters get their say.
While I liked the supplements for this DVD, one disappointment stems from the lack of deleted scenes. Clearly these exist, since Heckerling and Crowe discuss the TV version of Fast Times during their commentary; they indicate this edition featured a number of alternate takes. I don't necessarily want these inserted into the film itself - according to Heckerling and Crowe, they were pretty redundant - but I think they should appear on the DVD.
The launching pad for many famous actors, Fast Times At Ridgemont High remains an entertaining flick. Itís fun to see due to all the well-known participants, and it manages a reasonable amount of good material despite some inconsistencies. The DVD presents erratic but generally good picture quality with mediocre audio and a fairly interesting set of extras.
Although Iím not wild about Fast Times, I like it enough to recommend it. Should owners of the old DVD upgrade and get this new one? Probably not. Picture and extras are the same for both versions, so the only change comes from the new 5.1 soundtracks. Those do better the audio from the original version but I donít think the sound is improved enough to warrant a repurchase. If the new Fast Times had cleaned up the picture and added some new extras, Iíd advise a double-dip. As it stands, this one is a fairly lazy reissue.