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Clueless Blu-ray Review

Clueless (1995) movie poster Clueless

Theatrical Release: July 21, 1995 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Songs List

Writer/Director: Amy Heckerling

Cast: Alicia Silverstone (Cher Horowitz), Stacey Dash (Dionne Davenport), Brittany Murphy (Tai Fraiser), Paul Rudd (Josh Lucas), Donald Faison (Murray Duvall), Elisa Donovan (Amber Mariens), Breckin Meyer (Travis Birkenstock), Jeremy Sisto (Elton Tiscia), Dan Hedaya (Mel Horowitz), Aida Linares (Lucy), Wallace Shawn (Mr. Wendell Hall), Twink Caplan (Miss Toby Geist), Justin Walker (Christian Stovitz), Sabastian Rashidi (Paroudasm), Herb Hall (Principal), Julie Brown (Ms. Millie Stoeger), Susan Mohun (Heather), Nicole Bilderback (Summer), Ron Orbach (DMV Tester), Sean Holland (Lawrence), Roger Kabler (College Guy), Jace Alexander (Robber)

Buy Clueless from Amazon.com: Blu-ray "Whatever!" Edition DVD Instant Video

In the mid-1990s, after Look Who's Talking made her one of the most commercially successful women in filmmaking history, Amy Heckerling returned to the setting of her directing debut: contemporary high school life in sunny Southern California.
Heckerling's first film, the iconic, Cameron Crowe-scripted Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), was a decidedly R-rated affair with its sexual content and abortion plot. Clueless (1995), which Heckerling both wrote and directed, was PG-13. A more marketable and widely appealing comedy, Clueless never got too serious or edgy, but nonetheless it proved popular with kids, teens, and critics of the '90s.

An update of Jane Austen's 1815 novel Emma, Clueless centers on wealthy Beverly Hills teenager Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone). Cher's mother died when she was young and her father (Dan Hedaya) keeps busy at his $500/hour job as a corporate litigator. What Cher lacks in family, she makes up for in fashion and friends. Her father's work keeps her living comfortably in a mansion with a housekeeping staff. One doesn't doubt that 15-year-old Cher regularly racks up four-figure credit card bills in her quest to have the most fashionable outfits, shoes, and accessories.

In what seems destined to be the highlight of her acting career, Alicia Silverstone stars as shallow yet thoughtful teen protagonist Cher Horowitz. Dionne (Stacey Dash) and Cher (Alicia Silverstone) can put their bulky cell phones away now that they've met up in the hallway of Beverly Hills High.

A self-centered, pop-cultured rich girl who hides her ditziness with a large vocabulary and of-the-moment slang, Cher tries to do some good for others for a change. First, she and best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) set up their humorless speech teacher Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn) with socially conscious hot mess history professor Miss Geist (associate producer Twink Caplan). Their matchmaking play is a transparent yet successful effort to boost the rare underwhelming grade on their report cards.

With less of an ulterior motive, Cher next tries to help needy transfer student Tai Fraiser (Brittany Murphy), making her over in an attempt to attract Elton (Jeremy Sisto), one of the few high school guys Cher considers worth dating. Tai is more interested in clumsy stoner Travis (Breckin Meyer), but her transformation from ugly duckling gives her confidence and increases the attention her classmates pay her.

Cher tries to jump start her own love life with the arrival of sharp-dressed classmate Christian (Justin Walker), on whom she uses her subtle powers of seduction. However, their relationship hits an insurmountable snag before it can take off. Then there is Josh (Paul Rudd), Cher's globally aware collegiate stepbrother, who is increasingly present at the Horowitzes' mansion to help their shared father prepare for a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

Rollin' with the homies... Tai (Brittany Murphy) and Elton (Jeremy Sisto) share a moment at a yuletide house party. To the bewilderment of Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn), Travis Birkenstock (Breckin Meyer) gives an impassioned acceptance speech for having the most tardies in his class.

Perhaps no other film presents so thorough a snapshot of 1990s youth culture as Clueless. Revisiting the film is a shocking reminder of just how long ago 1995 was, as the lingo, fashions, archetypes, and social lives now seem so distant and foreign.
Not that they didn't seem foreign to a good portion of the population back in 1995. Heckerling's film clearly exaggerates and invents much of its high school scene for comedic effect. Airheads don't possess the degree of awareness of Cher and her friends. And though their colorful wardrobes are fashionable and trendy, they are clearly over-the-top creatively and financially.

Clueless isn't a movie you watch for an honest and accurate portrayal of mid-'90s adolescence. You watch it for fun and that is a value delivered in spades. The film is a satire of shallow teenage priorities and the glitzy lifestyle of Los Angeles' upper class, but it is far from dark or biting. We're given the perspective of Cher and welcomed to indulge in her existence where cares are few and minor. Another film would cast Cher and Dionne as villains or else turn us against one of the other cliques portrayed here, but Clueless doesn't have a nasty bone in its body. The closest to an antagonist we get here is Amber (Elisa Donovan), whose greatest offenses are objecting to one of Cher's vapid orations and copying one of her ensembles. Heckerling's screenplay is both funny and smart, a rare combination in mainstream comedy, especially one aimed at young audiences.

The amount of attention Clueless pays to contemporary icons is something you'd expect more from a period film glamorizing the past. The glimpses at "Beavis and Butt-Head", "Ren & Stimpy", a Mentos commercial; casual references to Tower Records, The Cranberries, and Pauly Shore; rampant sightings of forgotten fads like the plaid layered look and SnackWells boxes; and a soundtrack that makes often brief, always effective use of infectious tunes by the likes of No Doubt, Supergrass, Salt-n-Pepa, Luscious Jackson, Coolio, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (who show up to play a party)... it's as if Heckerling traveled forward in time to discover the very things that would make adults of the future nostalgic for the '90s.

Grossing $57 million in North America, Clueless was a solid mid-range hit for Paramount Pictures in the summer of 1995, besting Ridgemont High's take even adjusted for inflation while clearly falling several leagues short of the box office success of the original Look Who's Talking. The film did seem to re-energize studio interest in the high school comedy, especially those inspired by classic literature, as movies like She's All That and 10 Things I Hate About You would follow.

Christian (Justin Walker) seems more interested in "Sparaticus" than in Cher (Alicia Silverstone). In one of his first film roles, Paul Rudd plays Cher's ex-stepbrother, smart college student Josh Lucas.

You'd expect everyone involved in Clueless would experience immediate career boosts, but that was surprisingly not the case. Though her winsome lead turn screams a star-making performance, Silverstone, previously known for her appearances in Aerosmith music videos (as well as her MTV Movie Award-decorated breakthrough a year earlier in The Crush), would make a few poor choices (Excess Baggage, Batman & Robin) and fade away almost instantly. You'd think the good will felt towards the oft-broadcast Clueless and Blast from the Past would at least land her better movies than Scooby Doo 2, Beauty Shop, and Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker.

Most of Silverstone's castmates weren't even launched that much. Elisa Donovan finds work these days in the curious "digital" series "In Gayle We Trust" and Spooky Buddies. Stacey Dash, believe it or not, is now 46. She has remained scarce, currently appearing on VH1's black drama "Single Ladies", which you probably haven't heard of. Breckin Meyer has weathered quite a bit of maligned fare including two Garfield movies and three short-lived sitcoms. He has somehow remained visible and recently found a home on TNT's soon returning hour-long lawyer comedy "Franklin & Bash." Also finding success on television were Jeremy Sisto on "Six Feet Under" and "Law & Order" and Donald Faison on the much-loved, long-running "Scrubs", though film success has mostly eluded both of them.

The two biggest movie stars to graduate from Clueless were supporting players Paul Rudd and Brittany Murphy. Rudd has one of the healthiest careers in big screen comedy as an integral member of Judd Apatow's troupe and the kindred Frat Pack, although a string of recent flops (like this year's Wanderlust) may call his marquee value into question. Murphy, meanwhile, blossomed several years after Clueless, her skinny blonde appearance a far cry from her frumpy, dark-haired turn as Tai. Her young death at the end of 2009 now provides a twinge of sadness to a movie and performance so happy and upbeat.

Heckerling's post-Clueless career has also puzzlingly stalled. As on Fast Times, she followed Clueless to a television series, on which she served as creator, producer, and occasional director. Retaining Dash, Faison, Donovan, Shawn, Caplan, and gym teacher Julie Brown from the movie's cast, the "Clueless" TV series ran much longer than "Fast Times"' seven episodes, spending its first season as part of ABC's TGIF lineup and its last two to the lower expectations of UPN. On the movie front, Heckerling wrote and directed the 2000 Jason Biggs flop Loser and reunited with Rudd and Dash for the underrated, "Clueless"-inspired, oddly direct-to-video 2007 Michelle Pfeiffer comedy I Could Never Be Your Woman. Her next film, the vampire romantic comedy Vamps starring Silverstone and Krysten Ritter, was recently picked up for limited theatrical release later this year.

Already popular enough for Paramount to revisit in a "Whatever!" Edition during the golden age of DVD reissues, Clueless now makes the leap the Blu-ray Disc as the studio's May catalog hi-def release.

Clueless Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; Movie-only: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $22.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Still available as "Whatever!" Edition DVD ($14.98 SRP, August 30, 2005), Girls Rule DVD Collection ($35.98 SRP, 2007) with Mean Girls and She's the Man, and Instant Video
Previously released as DVD (October 19, 1999), and DVD Cool Pak with Mean Girls (2006)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Clueless's Blu-ray presentation looks almost perfect to me. I spotted one print intrusion and one brief grainy moment (both affecting shots of Dan Hedaya at work, incidentally). Other than those extremely minor drawbacks, the 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is an utter delight, with its pristine element, vibrant colors, and sharp imagery.

Quite possibly a remix of a film designed in plain stereo, the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio largely stays in the front channels, where it is lively and crisp. When it extends to the rear channels as in the passing motorcycles during the highway scare sequence, it is tasteful and appreciated. Dolby 2.0 dubs and subtitles are offered in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

The Blu-ray adds just one exclusive bonus feature, but it's the 97-minute "Clue or False" trivia game playback mode. The late Brittany Murphy reflects on her first major film role in "The Class of '95" and other featurettes made for 2005's "Whatever!" Edition DVD.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Clueless is equipped with all of the extras from its "Whatever!" Edition DVD plus one, which is great because they're some of the most fun and memorable DVD bonus features I've encountered.

The Blu-ray's one new addition is the "Clue or False" trivia game, which actually accompanies playback of the film. Graphics appear on screen to ask you true or false questions. You get ten points for right answers, which are clarified with a fun fact. Your score is tracked in the top right of the screen throughout. The appropriately challenging questions pop up around once a minute and often pertain to who's onscreen or what is heard or mentioned.
It's a fun way to enhance a repeat viewing of the film and less intrusive than an audio commentary, although you can't pause, rewind, fast-forward, or toggle audio or subtitles with this featured activated. I scored a 630, which classified me as "a Baldwin."

On the video side, we get seven 1.33:1 standard definition featurettes produced for the 2005 DVD. They mix then-new retrospective interviews with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from the production. Caught up with in 2005 were writer/director Amy Heckerling, Brittany Murphy, Stacey Dash, Donald Faison, Paul Rudd, Breckin Meyer, Elisa Donovan, Justin Walker, Dan Hedaya, Wallace Shawn, Twink Caplan, casting director Marcia Ross, director of photography Bill Pope, costume designer Mona May, and makeup artist Alan Friedman. Basically, everyone but Alicia Silverstone, whose absence is unfortunate, glaring, and indefensible. (Jeremy Sisto is also a no-show.)

"The Class of '95" (18:31) considers all the leading cast members assembled, devoting a couple of minutes to each. It is spiced up with freeze frames and facts about the cast and crew members, and a clip from one of several promos shot for MTV (sadly not presented in full elsewhere, as they should have been).

Writer/director Amy Heckerling recalls the journey to make "Clueless" in "Creative Writing." Costume designer Mona May shows off one of Cher Horowitz's more than fifty featured costumes in "Fashion 101". "Language Arts" defines the slang term "Monet" among the film's many other colloquialisms.

"Creative Writing" (9:39) recalls the project's development, from a television pitch to feature film. Heckerling shares her research, thought process, and studio resistance encountered.

"Fashion 101" (10:46) turns our attention to the iconic costume designs. Mona May shares her insights into characters' styles both in 1995 and 2005.

"Language Arts" (8:09) is a guide to the film's slang, which gathers some thoughts, and does a lot of showing example clips and defining terms.

Alicia Silverstone and Jeremy Sisto demonstrate how to play Suck 'n Blow in this tutorial. Raw footage captures Donald Faison and Stacey Dash's in-car kiss in "Driver's Ed." The students of Beverly Hills High pose in a heart-shaped mirror on the Blu-ray's girly menu.

"Suck 'n Blow: A Tutorial" (2:47) takes us behind the scenes of the Christmas party game that proved to be a challenge to film.

"Driver's Ed" (3:49) details the freeway scene and the kiss part of it with Faison recollections and some raw footage.

"We're History" (8:52) wraps up the reflection with some words on the film's reception and legacy.

Finally, we get Clueless' original teaser (1:59) and trailer (2:39), both in HD and both noteworthy for containing some unused moments that would seem to warrant a deleted scenes section that this disc again neglects to provide.

Besides the lack of deleted scenes, MTV's promos, this MTV Movie Awards short, and any Alicia Silverstone participation, it's also unfortunate that Paramount couldn't include an episode or two of the "Clueless" TV series, which has never appeared on DVD. They may emanate from different branches of the same company, but I'm sure it would have been easy and worthwhile inclusion.

The rock-scored menu plays clips in swinging lockets before settling on a heart-shaped vanity scene and running a montage there. Like every Paramount Blu-ray I've seen, the disc supports bookmarks but not resuming.

Like the DVD that preceded it, this Blu-ray places paying tribute to Cher Horowitz's fashion sense above the film's unisex appeal, topping the case with a faux bejeweled very pink cardboard slipcover. An insert advertises Paramount's 100th anniversary Delta Vacations sweepstakes.

Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and Dionne (Stacey Dash) look to makeover frumpy new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Sharp, funny, and extremely appealing, Clueless ranks highly among the many teen comedies produced over the years.
It may not be the best high school movie of its time, but it certainly seems to be the 1990s' most iconic contribution to the genre. Fondness and nostalgia for the decade is more or less essential to really appreciating this boldly fashioned and already tremendously dated work, but anyone with a '90s youth ought to enjoy this to some degree.

Paramount's Blu-ray meets but does not exceed one's expectations. The feature presentation is excellent and the recycled bonus features are very good (though it was clearly short-sighted for them not to be produced in HD in 2005). Deleted scenes, the MTV promos, and an episode of the TV series would have added crystal-clear upgrade value over the "Whatever!" Edition DVD this resembles. At least the feature-length trivia game mode is a nice touch. This fine, reasonably-priced disc befits its enduringly entertaining film, but is a bit of a missed opportunity to have done more.

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Clueless Songs List: The Muffs - "Kids in America", David Bowie - "Fashion", No Doubt - "Just a Girl", Salt-n-Pepa - "Shoop", Radiohead - "Fake Plastic Trees (Acoustic Version)", Cracker - "Shake Some Action", Lightning Seeds - "Change", Robert Hazard - "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", Radiohead - "My Iron Lung", Jill Sobule - "Supermodel", Fit Video - "Buns of Steel 3", John Groves - "Mentos Jingle 'Fresh Goes Better'", Supergrass - "Alright", Coolio - "Rollin' with My Homies", World Party - "All the Young Dudes", Billie Holiday - "Miss Brown to You", Phunke Assfalt - "This Time", Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Lowe - "Gigi", The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - "Someday I Suppose", The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - "Where'd You Go?", Domino - "Give It All You Got", Luscious Jackson - "Here (Squirmel Mix)", The Cranberries - "Away", The Choclate Hippies - "Closer to Heaven", Richard Strauss - "Also Sprach Zarathustra", Gail Orange - "I Believe I'm You", Counting Crows - "The Ghost in You", Alex North - "Oysters & Snails (from Spartacus)", Velocity Girl - "My Forgotten Favorite", Jewel - "All by Myself", Michael Legrand - "Summer of '42", Beastie Boys - "Mullet Head", Spin - "Ain't Nuttin' Wrong", General Public - "Tenderness", Smoking Popes - "Need You Around"

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Reviewed April 24, 2012.



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