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FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (director: Amy Hekerling; screenwriter: from the book by Cameron Crowe/Cameron Crowe; cinematographer: Matthew F. Leonetti; editor: Eric Jenkins; music: Joe Walsh; cast: Sean Penn (Jeff Spicoli), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Stacy Hamilton), Judge Reinhold (Brad Hamilton), Robert Romanus (Mike Damone), Brian Backer (Mark Ratner), Phoebe Cates (Linda Barrett), Ray Walston (Mr. Hand), Forest Whitaker (Charles Jefferson), Amanda Wyss (Lisa), D.W. Brown (Ron Johnson), Vincent Schiavelli (Mr. Vargas), Eric Stoltz (Stoner Bud); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Irving Azoff/C.O. Erickson/Art Linson; Universal Studios Home Video; 1982)
“A cult classic.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Amy Hekerling (“Johnny Dangerously”/”Clueless”/”Loser”) in her feature film directorial debut, helms this crowd-pleasing and entertaining Hollywood moronic teen film filled with lowbrow sight gags and a few poignant observations. It became a cult classic. It competes with other ’80’s films like Porky’s (1982), The Last American Virgin (1982), Risky Business (1983) andAmerican Pie(1999) for honors as best teen film of the decade (take your pick, they’re all pretty much similar). The comedy revolves around school life, growing pains, need for independence, sexual education, money woes, working at the mall and dating. Cameron Crowe at 22 returned to a San Diego high school during the 1979-80 school yearposing as a student in order to write a book about modern-day students, which he adapted to screen for this reality-based crude romantic comedy that rocks. It’s set in a suburban Southern California affluent community.

The worldly Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates) and the 15-year-old virgin Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) are high school best friends and work together in a pizza restaurant at the shopping mall. Linda advises Stacy how to nail a guy, as the inexperienced Stacy tries to live up to her friend’s expectation for her.The shy Mark “Rat” Ratner (Brian Backer) has a crush on Stacy, but doesn’t know how to approach her. Rat’s in Stacy’s biology class and works at the mall cinema as an usher, and is advised by his ticket scalper hustler loudmouth friend Mike Damone (Robert Romanus) on how to meet Stacy. Their adventure story turns out to be the dullest part of the film, but offers the most sincere life lessons about sex, abortions and romance.

Stacy’s nice guy high school senior brother Brad (Judge Reinhold) is going steady with Lisa (Amanda Wyss) and works in a fast-food restaurant, but all his expectations for a super senior year are smashed after getting fired for insulting a customer, having Lisa dump him, and then suffering through some more indignities.

The pic is stolen by Sean Pean as the stoned surfer student Jeff Spicoli, a clueless nitwit who is the most subversive student in the conservative high school. Jeff’s back and forth banter with his hostile history teacher, Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), provides the film’s wittiest dialogue.

It’s a goofy diverting teen film that has a background soundtrack by the likes of Don Henley, the Go-Go’s, Stevie Nicks, Sammy Hagar, Billy Squire, Joe Walsh, Jimmy Buffett, and Jackson Browne.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”