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Romy and Michele's High School Reunion: 15th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997) movie poster Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

Theatrical Release: April 25, 1997 / Running Time: 92 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: David Mirkin / Writer: Robin Schiff

Cast: Mira Sorvino (Romy White), Lisa Kudrow (Michele Weinberger), Janeane Garofalo (Heather Mooney), Alan Cumming (Sandy Frink), Julia Campbell (Christy Masters Christiansen), Mia Cottet (Cheryl Quick), Kristin Bauer van Straten (Kelly Passenger), Elaine Hendrix (Lisa Luder), Vincent Ventresca (Billy Christianson), Camryn Manheim (Toby Walters), Justin Theroux (Cowboy), Jacob Vargas (Ramon)

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Within three seasons, the six stars of NBC's hit sitcom "Friends" had all launched movie careers on the side. The hot young actors headlined such films as Scream (Courteney Cox), Ed (Matt LeBlanc), Fools Rush In (Matthew Perry), The Pallbearer (David Schwimmer), and Picture Perfect (Jennifer Aniston).
Lisa Kudrow, a 5-year veteran of television and film prior to her big break, got into the act with Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, a 1997 comedy that cast her as a ditsy blonde airhead not far from her signature role of Phoebe Buffay.

Kudrow plays Michele Weinberger, the roommate and longtime best friend of Romy White (Mira Sorvino). The two Los Angeles women have been out of high school for ten years without their lives taking off as they imagined. Michele is unemployed, while Romy is a cashier at a valet car service. An encounter with an old classmate reminds them that Sagebrush High's Class of 1987 is about to celebrate its ten-year reunion. Though they did not receive invitations, Romy and Michele decide to attend, getting a chance to return to their hometown of Tucson, Arizona and shine as they did not in high school. A ludicrous flashback shows that the two pals went to prom by themselves and were outcast by the popular "A-group" kids.

The reunion presents an opportunity for Romy and Michele to get their lives back on track: they plan to get jobs, get boyfriends, and lose weight. When it becomes clear that they won't be able to do any of that in time for the event, they decide to simply lie and pose as the inventor and designer, respectively, of Post-It Notes.

They think that some newly-purchased professional attire will dupe their old tormentors into believing they are rich and successful businesswomen. They are mistaken. The two 28-year-olds fall back into their old roles as class laughingstock. Their response is to embrace their true selves and have the night of their lives.

Roommates and longtime best friends Michele (Lisa Kudrow) and Romy (Mira Sorvino) get dressed up for a night on the town (and on the dance floor).

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion seemed like a fitting vehicle in which Lisa Kudrow could cross over into film. The actress had comic spaciness down pat and this project had her virtually reprising a role she held on stage in Robin Schiff's 1988 Los Angeles play Ladies' Room. That play, set in a Mexican restaurant's restroom, had cast Kudrow and Christie Mellor as single Valley girls. So too had "Just Temporary", Schiff's unsold 1989 sitcom pilot. Schiff's second theatrical screenwriting credit, Romy and Michele put Kudrow front and center, replacing unknown quantity Mellor with then-recent Academy Award winner Sorvino.

The premise is sturdy, offering excuses for already welcome 1980s nostalgia musically as well as effortlessly motivating adult characters to take stock of their life. Unfortunately, it is pretty underwhelming in execution, courtesy of the directing debut of seasoned TV writer David Mirkin ("Three's Company", "Newhart", "Get a Life", and "The Simpsons"). The type of tame R-rated comedy that no longer exists, Romy and Michele fails at a fundamental level because it is no smarter than the ditsy characters it wants us to laugh at. The middle of the movie serves up a bizarre 13-minute dream sequence. It ultimately doesn't profoundly differ from the real reunion, which finds the in crowd women still high, mighty, and full of themselves and Romy and Michele still trying desperately to win approval.

The heroines' redemption is a most hollow one: the shy kid with a crush on Michele has developed into a genuinely rich and successful inventor (Alan Cumming), who opts to dance with both ladies in a random bit of performance art that supposedly produces envy. Another classmate, the ever-bitter loner Heather Mooney (Janeane Garofalo), also comes around and finds love with a once quiet bad boy (Justin Theroux).

At the reunion, the A-group haves of high school (Kristin Bauer van Straten, Julia Campbell, and Mia Cottet) are still condescending and now pregnant. Romy (Mira Sorvino), Michele (Lisa Kudrow), and nerd turned billionaire Sandy Frink (Alan Cumming) show all their classmates how it is with a three-way dance number to "Time After Time."

A perky, upbeat comedy full of '80s music and essentially transplanting one of '90s television's funnier characters is not easy for me to dislike and I can appreciate if you classify Romy and Michele as harmless fun. It basically is, as long as you have a generous definition of "fun" and are not genuinely hurt by poor structure, stupid jokes, or paper-thin storytelling.

Grossing $29 million in spring theatrical release, the film proved to be an admirable springboard to Kudrow's film career, which has nonetheless never approached the significance of her long-running "Friends" work. On the other hand, it was around the same time that the industry realized Sorvino would not be a huge movie star,
her many accolades for Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite still remaining to this day her only major notices for big screen output. Romy requires more of an effort from her than Michele does for Kudrow and Sorvino's adopted voice and artificial mannerisms do stand in the way of some potential laughs. Nonetheless, the film earned something of a cult following on home video and in frequent television airings. It now stands as one of the movies for which both leading ladies are best known.

This movie was popular enough to inspire a prequel in the 2005 ABC Family original movie Romy and Michele: In the Beginning. Both written and directed by Schiff, this cast Katherine Heigl as the young Romy (who reportedly more closely resembles Michele). Despite airing just after the much-buzzed first season of "Grey's Anatomy", In the Beginning drew low ratings. It was not well-received critically and has yet to see the light of home video.

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, meanwhile, came to Blu-ray this week in a somewhat unceremonious 15th Anniversary Edition.

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion: 15th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $20.00
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Still available on DVD ($14.99 SRP; August 24, 1999) and Amazon Instant Video
Previously released on VHS (August 25, 1998)

VIDEO and AUDIO

One area of this Blu-ray with which you won't find fault is the feature presentation. Romy and Michele looks great in this clean, sharp, and vibrant 1.85:1 transfer. Disney's recent BD catalog titles have been spotty, but the satisfying results here place this one at the high end of the lot.

The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is also better than expected. Unlike two of this week's other new releases from the studio, this is a bona fide 5.1-channel mix, boasting a surprising amount of directionality and surround effects. The prominently featured '80s music has good presence and dialogue is crisp and intelligible throughout, though subtitles in four different languages are a welcome touch nonetheless.

Playwright/screenwriter Robin Schiff, creator of Romy and Michele, speaks in the making-of featurette. The original theatrical trailer for "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" is kindly preserved on Blu-ray, but only in standard definition.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

On Blu-ray, Romy and Michele are joined by the same two extras that accompanied them on DVD. First and more significant is a short, promotional,
and standard behind-the-scenes featurette (3:34). It includes film clips and production interviews with Lisa Kudrow, Mira Sorvino, Janeane Garofalo, writer/executive producer Robin Schiff, director David Mirkin, and producer Laurence Mark.

Beyond that, there is the movie's original theatrical trailer (1:41), which like the featurette appears in 1.33:1 standard definition.

The menu attaches score to the cover art image, employing Post-It notes behind listings. In a minor but significant drawback, the disc doesn't resume playback or support bookmarks, complicating multiple sitting viewings. It's not as if such features are beyond Blu-ray technology; they are standard touches for numerous other studios. Until Disney joins them on catalog titles, their discs will suffer from inferior authoring.

The Blu-ray loads with trailers for The Odd Life of Timothy Green, The Avengers, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray. The menu's Sneak Peeks listing repeats those and adds spots for ABC first season dramas and "Castle": The Complete Fourth Season.

Senior prom was not the most joyous occasion for Michele (Lisa Kudrow) and Romy (Mira Sorvino). Heather Mooney (Janeane Garofalo) is just as edgy as Romy remembers her.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Fifteen years later, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion feels a lot like a female version of A Night at the Roxbury, a movie it narrowly preceded and whose current IMDb rating and box office numbers are virtually identical to its. I kind of like Roxbury and I can appreciate those who like Romy and Michele, but the latter comedy definitely falls shorter of its potential. Unknowingly stupid and not terribly funny, the film could have been much more enjoyable in stronger hands.

This release is what you expect and hope for one of Disney's 2012 Anniversary Edition Blu-rays. Nothing is lost (besides easily-resumed playback) and the only gains are in the movie's picture and sound quality. This doesn't strike me as a movie many will feel compelled to upgrade to Blu-ray, but those who do should be satisfied if they can find this at a good price.

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Mira Sorvino: Multiple Sarcasms | Janeane Garofalo: Ratatouille Kiki's Delivery Service Labor Pains
A Night at the Roxbury Clueless You Again Young Adult The Parent Trap (1998)
Written by Robin Schiff: 10 Things I Hate About You: Volume One

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion Songs List (in order of use): No Doubt - "Just a Girl", "Viv Dejected", La Bouche - "Be My Lover", "This Is It", "Bach: Brandenberg Concerto No. 3 in G Major", N'Trance - "Staying Alive", The Village People - "Y.M.C.A.", The Smithereens - "Blood and Roses", Bow Wow Wow - "I Want Candy", Thomas Dolby - "She Blinded Me with Science", Wang Chung - "Dance Hall Days", "Wells Fargo Wagon", "Super George", Devo - "Whip It", Robert Palmer - "Addicted to Love", Cyndi Lauper - "Time After Time", Sub Sub and Melanie Williams - "Ain't No Love (Ain't No Use)", "Blue Danube Waltz", "Bossa Angela", Kenny Loggins - "Footloose", The Vapors - "Turning Japanese", The Desert Rose Band - "Hello Trouble", Culture Club - "Karma Chameleon", Naked Eyes - "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me", "Beethoven: Sonata #8 'Pathetique'", The Go-Go's - "Our Lips Are Sealed", The Pretenders - "Don't Get Me Wrong", Howard Jones - "No One Is To Blame", Bananarama - "Cruel Summer", Tears for Fears - "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", Bananarama - "Venus", Belinda Carlisle - "Heaven Is a Place on Earth", Robert Palmer - "Bad Case of Lovin' You", The Go-Go's - "We Got the Beat", Talawah Crew - "Have a Good Time"

Buy Romy and Michele's High School Reunion on CD: Original Soundtrack More Music from the Motion Picture

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Reviewed August 8, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1997 Touchstone Pictures, Laurence Mark Productions, Bungalow 78 Productions, and 2012 Touchstone Home Entertainment.
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