Directed by Amy Heckerling
Starring: Alicial Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Paul Rudd
The 90’s was an era of grunge and plaid and beat up sweaters and shoe gazers. Writer/director Amy Heckerling saw this and wanted to bring some cheer and smiles to the teenage/college age generation, and she did with her classic film Clueless. It’s sort of a sweet film about clueless young people who transition into adulthood and learn through young love and comedy about the world, at least, a little bit. It’s not a deep thought provoking film at all. It’s light and fun fare that actually left a lasting impact on the zeitgeist for a number of years, even a little today. The film honestly sits more in the space of Valley Girl than something with deeper meaning and that’s ok. It is ok to have some fun once in a while. Heckerling’s most popular work up to that point was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a film with the same type of innocent teen comedy to it, but that film featured a little more drama and depth.
Clueless was one of those films that was just a convergence of great ideas, selections, and timing. The idea that the world needed a break from the darkness that was the grunge sort of Gen X movement that permeated the early 90’s was spot on. Heckerling interviewed young teens at the time of the writing to help her develop a new dialogue for her characters using some slang that was popular at the time and riffing off of it to create completely new slang and language for her characters. She worked with an innovative stylist to create over the top surreal almost fashion and style for the characters and the world in which they existed. Again she often utilized real clothing and designers but pushed it all to the extreme to make a point. So the film had a unique voice and look, very unique compared to similar films of the era. What she really needed to make it work though, was the right cast.
Heckerling really scored with her cast by bringing in familiar young faces that hadn’t quite taken off yet. The film’s star Alicia Silverstone had acted a bit but was most familiar to fans from a series of Aerosmith videos. Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd, and Donald Faison all came to the film with unbridled enthusiasm that only real young people can bring and it showed in the film. All of these actors went on to long careers in film and TV after Clueless with arguably Paul Rudd and Brittany Murphy making the biggest impact to date. It turned out Alicia Silverstone had pretty great comedy chops at the time and we all know that Rudd also knows how to go for the laughs.
Clueless is a simple, almost basic story but it shines in its world building, almost the 90’s teen comedy version of John Wick! Twenty five years later Clueless is a still a cotton candy filled fun world to visit, now feeling like a period film too. It’s cute, funny, innocent, and sweet. Don’t look for much depth here under the very basics of coming of age, but that’s ok, it’s a film to just have fun with.
This appears to be the transfer from the 2014 release of the film to blu-ray and it often shows. The color pallet pf the film is bubblegum bright and for the most part it looks pretty good with dynamic variations from yellows to reds and many patterns. Both black levels and clothing patterns come off pretty solid with good detail in the blacks and no aliasing in the patterns. that said, the film is often either plagued with edge enhancement or very soft, almost looking out of focus in a few places. When it’s good it’s good and when it’s bad it’s bad, but it’s never as great as the movie deserves. We need a new transfer of this film stat.
We have a very aged DTS-HD mix here. The film features heavy use of pop songs from the era as transitions and emotional tools but they aren’t given much love in the mix. Sure, they pop out when they are supposed to but they are very “mid-rangy” with no dynamics leaving the subs asleep at the wheel. This is a teen comedy not an action film, but there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the full sound stage that are just left floating in the front through the center channel and left and right. Party scenes in particular offered fun moments for the full sound stage to come to life with ambient noise but it never happens. All that said, dialogue is crisp and clean and mixed well with the music. It’s not a bad mix really, just very basic.
The Package, bonus Features, and Collectibility
This 25th anniversary release of Clueless comes packaged in a steelbook with a pattern from one of the star’s jackets from the film. It’s a simple but nice looking steelbook on the outside with cool images from the film on the inside presented in a very yearbook sort of way. Unfortunately there’s no art on the disc.
Sadly, all of the bonus features are simply the previous DVD bonuses. These features are even in 4:3, not HD, all recorded in 2005. The featurettes often feel like Electronic Press Kits more than documents of the making of the film, however they do go in depth into casting and wardrobe, two of the most important aspects of the film. There are some clips peppered in from the set of the film which is neat to see. There’s a trivia game that feels super gimicky. There’s a feature just focused on the slang of the film that’s interesting in parts. It was cool to see that Heckerling took time to talk to teenagers during the film to guide the script. All together there are seven featurettes totaling approximately sixty four minutes. Other vignettes include discussion of the suck and blow scene and the freeway driving scene. There’s no commentary and not enough depth for such an iconic film celebrating twenty five years. The best part is seeing a little of the cast during the production and a little of them ten years later. The trailers are a great time capsule for the film too. I really enjoyed revisiting after watching the film. They are kind of bad honestly, which made them all the more interesting. I’d love a director commentary and a set of new interviews twenty five years later.
If you have the 2014 blu-ray then you have this release other than the steelbook. So, if you are a collector of steelbooks sure I recommend this one. The design of the steelbook is simple and clean with the internal art being a nice surprise. If you are looking for a better transfer or more in depth bonuses you may want to just keep waiting on Clueless for a thirty year anniversary, maybe a 4k or a Paramount Presents release?