×

Clueless

Like an episode of "Beverly Hills, 90210" on helium, "Clueless" is a fresh, disarmingly bright and at times explosively funny comedy well worth a trip to the mall, even if it eventually runs out of gas. Establishing some big-time star credentials for teenage icon Alicia Silverstone, pic will have teens lining up in droves through the summer, though more discriminating audiences will need to tune in reviews and positive word of mouth or else be scared off by Paramount's in-need-of-a-clue ad campaign, which makes this look like a typical teen comedy. As if.

With:
Cher - Alicia Silverstone
Dionne - Stacey Dash
Tai - Brittany Murphy
Josh - Paul Rudd
Mel Hamilton - Dan Hedaya
Murray - Donald Faison
Amber - Elisa Donovan
Travis - Breckin Meyer
Elton - Jeremy Sisto
Lucy - Aida Linares
Mr. Wendell Hall - Wallace Shawn
Miss Toby Geist - Twink Caplan

Like an episode of “Beverly Hills, 90210” on helium, “Clueless” is a fresh, disarmingly bright and at times explosively funny comedy well worth a trip to the mall, even if it eventually runs out of gas. Establishing some big-time star credentials for teenage icon Alicia Silverstone, pic will have teens lining up in droves through the summer, though more discriminating audiences will need to tune in reviews and positive word of mouth or else be scared off by Paramount’s in-need-of-a-clue ad campaign, which makes this look like a typical teen comedy. As if. “Clueless” carries on the tradition of movies “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Dazed and Confused” in skewering the social strata of teen life, here taking advantage as well of the exaggerated rich-kid setting, where spoiled teens call each other on cellular phones as they parade down the halls.

Taking her (uncredited) inspiration from Jane Austen’s novel “Emma,” writer-director Amy Heckerling (who also directed “Fast Times”) has a dead-on ear for the updated “Valley Girl” dialogue with a Beverly Hills-Westside twist.

Pic serves notice right away that it’s not your average dull-witted teen howler when Cher (Silverstone) hooks up with her best friend, Dionne (Stacey Dash), who, she says in her stream-of-consciousness voiceover, shares the distinction of being named after a popular ’70s singer who now hosts infomercials.

The only child of a widowed corporate lawyer (played with gruff charm by Dan Hedaya), Cher finds there are few situations she can’t talk her way out of, down to manipulating her teachers into a romance to mellow them out enough to get better grades.

Cher’s big project, however, is Tai (Brittany Murphy), a fashion victim who clearly needs a clue. Taking it upon herself to elevate the new kid into the popular elite, she begins a wholesale makeover that eventually leads her in a small way to examine her own persona, including her relationship with Josh (Paul Rudd), the son of her father’s ex-wife by a former marriage. (That means the two aren’t related at all, though the distinction was clearly lost on some members of the preview audience.)

Though unlikely to win many fans on Capitol Hill, it’s somewhat refreshing to see these teens casually drinking, smoking pot and talking about sex, forgoing the by-now expected “Just say ‘No’ ” lectures. Still, that may be easier for even critics to inhale in light of the cartoonish nature of the characters.

Heckerling gets the most out of her youthful cast, beginning with Silverstone , who’s not only adorable but possesses a real comic flair. Though her choice as the MTV Movie Awards’ newcomer of the year seemed like something of a joke in 1993 (“The Crush” was a rather reprehensible movie), she certainly lives up to that promise here.

The rest of the youthful ensemble is stocked with fresh faces, and Heckerling gets occasional laughs even from the few adults allowed to populate this world, among them Wallace Shawn and Twink Caplan (the pic’s associate producer).

“Clueless” does stumble a bit toward the end. It’s hard to maintain such manic energy, and the story seems to have little idea where it’s going before settling on a rather pat conclusion.

Even so, the movie emerges as a breath of fresh air in a summer where most of the comedy has been formulaic. Tech credits are also superb, down to the outlandish costumes, carefully chosen song score and opulent Beverly Hills estates — gaudy enough to make even the Clampetts and the brats on “90210” eat their collective hearts out.

Clueless

Production: A Paramount release of a Robert Lawrence and Scott Rudin production. Produced by Rudin, Lawrence. Co-producers, Adam Schroeder, Barry Berg. Directed, written by Amy Heckerling.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Bill Pope; editor, Debra Chiate; music, David Kitay; music supervisor, Karyn Rachtman; production design, Steve Jordan; art direction, William Hiney; set decoration, Amy Wells; costume design, Mona May; sound (Dolby), David Ronne; associate producer, Twink Caplan; assistant director, Richard Graves; casting, Marcia S. Ross. Reviewed at Village Theatre, L.A., July 12, 1995. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 97 min.

With: Cher - Alicia Silverstone
Dionne - Stacey Dash
Tai - Brittany Murphy
Josh - Paul Rudd
Mel Hamilton - Dan Hedaya
Murray - Donald Faison
Amber - Elisa Donovan
Travis - Breckin Meyer
Elton - Jeremy Sisto
Lucy - Aida Linares
Mr. Wendell Hall - Wallace Shawn
Miss Toby Geist - Twink Caplan

More Film

  • Tokyo Director-in-Focus-at-Japan-Now

    Nobuhiko Obayashi set as Japanese Director in Focus at Tokyo Film Festival

    Indie director, Nobuhiko Obayashi will be feted as the director in focus at the Japan Now section of this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. The festival will give a world premiere to his “Labyrinth of Cinema.” Supporting his art by shooting commercials, Obayashi is an indie whose dreamy works have influenced numerous other directors in [...]

  • Jimmi Simpson Joins Russell Crowe Movie

    Jimmi Simpson Joins Russell Crowe Thriller 'Unhinged' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jimmi Simpson will play a key role in “Unhinged,” Variety has learned. He joins an impressive cast that includes Oscar-winner Russell Crowe and Caren Pistorius. Solstice Studios is producing the psychological thriller, which is currently filming in New Orleans. “Unhinged” centers on a woman named Rachel (Pistorius), who leans on her horn at the wrong [...]

  • David Crosby

    David Crosby Says New Documentary 'Remember My Name' Is Like 'Being Naked in Public’

    “It’s not easy. It’s hard being naked in public,” David Crosby, the legendary troubadour of classic rock, reflected at Tuesday night’s New York City premiere of “David Crosby: Remember My Name.” “I don’t know what to do here. There’s no guitars, no drums,” he laughed. Directed by newcomer A.J. Eaton and produced by the legendary [...]

  • Javier Bardem Dune

    Javier Bardem in Talks to Play King Triton in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Javier Bardem is in talks to play King Triton in Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. Harry Styles is also in early talks to play Prince Eric. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • UglyDolls

    STX Tries to Put Flops Behind It as It Searches for Star Executive, Fresh Capital

    After a series of film flops and an aborted initial public offering, STX Entertainment is battling mounting skepticism that it can survive in an increasingly unforgiving movie business. As it hustles to find $500 million in fresh capital, the company, which operates in the red according to financial disclosures, is simultaneously hoping to attract a [...]

  • Ryan Simpkins

    Ryan Simpkins Joins Fox-Disney's 'Fear Street' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Ryan Simpkins has joined Fox-Disney’s second installment of 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment’s “Fear Street” trilogy, based on the novels by R.L. Stine. Leigh Janiak is helming all three films. Previously announced cast includes Gillian Jacobs, Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Kiana Madeira, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Ashley Zukerman, Fred Hechinger, Julia [...]

  • MPAA Logo

    Motion Picture Association of America Hires Emily Lenzner as Communications Chief

    The Motion Picture Association of America has appointed veteran public relations executive Emily Lenzner as its executive VP of global communications and public affairs. She will report to Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin and oversee the trade group’s communications team in the U.S. and internationally. Lenzner will start Aug. 1 and be based at the MPAA’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content