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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 31.25%
Average: 7.81%
Pretty Bad: 3.91%
Total Crap: 7.03%

4 reviews, 104 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"Very hard to dislike."
5 stars

At the beginning of 'Clueless,' our heroine, the 15-year-old 90210 princess Cher (Alicia Silverstone), selects her day's outfit from the graphics on a computer screen, which not only shows her what matches but how each outfit will look on her. It's as if this powerful technology existed only to help Cher look fabulous for school. (We never see her use the computer for anything else.)

Clueless, the best light-as-air teen comedy in ages, is full of little spins like that, and when I wasn't laughing I was at least smiling. The writer-director, Amy Heckerling, who's 41 now, made her debut with the preternaturally charming Fast Times at Ridgemont High; she still hasn't lost touch with what makes mall-rats tick, even if some of the jargon in Clueless is dated. (On Fast Times, Heckerling had help from Cameron Crowe.)

Amy Heckerling's gift as a director -- which can't be faked, and which is in short supply in current American movies -- is a deep affection for her subjects. She may aim satirical arrows at Cher and her bubbly friends, but the arrows have suction cups on their tips. Heckerling doesn't skewer these kids for who they are; she sees the unconscious (almost preconscious) humor in their indomitable cluelessness. (The movie's deadpan irony about its own giddy, pastel inconsequentiality is what The Brady Bunch Movie tried for and missed.) Without Heckerling's gentle amusement, the movie would either be a straight glorification of airheads (like most of Fast Times' rip-offs) or a bitter spray of venom like Heathers, which, in its refusal to acknowledge the humanity in the Heathers or the jocks, wasn't half as clever or original as it thought it was. Put it this way: I couldn't stand kids like Cher in high school, but Heckerling (and Silverstone) won me over, whereas Heathers merely pandered to my adolescent anti-prom streak.

Alicia Silverstone didn't much impress me in her debut, as the lethal Lolita in the inept The Crush (1993), where she tried to be diabolical but was just pouty and amateurish. I skipped her next feature (Hideaway) and somehow missed her famous Aerosmith videos, so I can't say whether her fine comic touch in Clueless is part of a gradual advance, or a quantum leap, or (as I suspect) more a matter of her performing within her range. She has wonderful eyebrows that curl up in puzzlement or romantic anguish, and she gives Cher (who's still a virgin) an appealing imperviousness. Cher is just as forthright with her gruff but harmless dad (Dan Hedaya) as she is with a bland hunk who makes a move on her. And she won't be swayed by peer pressure; Cher, the most popular girl at school, is above peer pressure -- she sets the standards.

Heckerling has assembled a terrific supporting cast. When Cher takes the podium in debate class and holds forth on how we should make room for Haitian refugees because "there's no RSVP on the Statue of Liberty," the scene is funny, but Wallace Shawn, as the teacher, turns it into a classic with his stupefied "Have we fallen this far?" expression. Stacey Dash has some fresh moments as Cher's best friend Dionne, who yells at her goofy boyfriend but also has a warm rapport with him "when nobody's looking." As the new girl Tai, who becomes Cher's makeover "project," Brittany Murphy could be Marisa Tomei's stoned baby sister; she has a natural rhythm, as if her lines had just popped into her head and surprised her.

The male-written Fast Times took a dimmer view of guys than Clueless does, perhaps because Cameron Crowe was privy to guys' crude talk about girls. Heckerling gives guys their due. As the smooth Christian, whom Cher has a crush on, Justin Walker has a great bit when he politely escorts Cher to a dance, only to forget about her when he spots a cute guy to dance with. (Cher takes this revelation in stride -- Christian becomes a cool guy to shop with.) The real find may be Paul Rudd as Cher's stepbrother Josh, who listens to "complaint rock" (his theme song is Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees"), pores over Nietzsche, and spars good-naturedly with Cher. Rudd is the spokesperson for those in the audience who find Cher appealing but mildly ridiculous, and he's very winning. Heckerling handles her young cast with a light, easy touch; watching them, you remember what a great ensemble Fast Times had. (Clueless has its own Jeff Spicoli, a stoner skateboarder who serves as a relaxed and inadvertent counterpoint to the stoner skateboarders in Kids. This being the '90s, the stoner becomes a twelve-stepper.)

Back in 1982, the sexual frankness of Fast Times upset a lot of (adult) critics -- in some surface ways, it was the Kids of its day. The scene in which Phoebe Cates instructed Jennifer Jason Leigh in matters of fellatio ("Don't bite") said more than a thousand sociological studies: Those kids, with precious little guidance at home, had to steer each other (and themselves) past the pitfalls of budding sexuality. Neither Fast Times nor Clueless turn adults into cartoon ogres (a key point of departure between Heckerling and the perpetually snotty John Hughes), but they do recognize that the financial realities of the last quarter-century have left kids almost entirely to their own devices. Larry Clark paints this adultless world as an apocalypse of immorality and irresponsibility; Heckerling is more sanguine. She knows most kids stumble and fall, but also help each other up and generally turn out okay.

Clueless is softer than Fast Times. There's no hellish-devirginizing scene, no abortion, not much in the way of drugs (Cher takes a few hits of weed but believes in moderation); it's essentially asexual. What Heckerling achieves in Clueless is a self-contained fantasyland full of colorful, smartly observed people, who, for all their pastel poppiness, are more real to us than the human wreckage in Kids. Heckerling is a real director, and her best movies are comedies of companionship and kindness.

'Clueless' is a happy bubble, and Alicia Silverstone comes into her own as a confident young comedienne. She never pushes you to like her; you just do. The same is true of the movie.

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originally posted: 02/02/07 10:54:04
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User Comments

2/03/18 Suzanne Who knew his would be the apex for Alicia and Brittany? 4 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell dated but fun 4 stars
11/05/15 David Hollingsworth Still ahead of its time 5 stars
11/11/12 unknown very funny 4 stars
8/27/10 Boyd Definitive 90s teen comedy, insanely quotable; a true classic! 5 stars
4/24/10 doremimi Fun movie. By the way, Muskewitz, Dionne is played by Stacey Dash, not Rachel True. 4 stars
10/19/09 The Lurchprong Splitter Modernization of "Emma" works better than supposed non-modernization w/ Gwyneth Paltrow. 4 stars
10/09/09 Jeff Wilder Doesn't hold together as a movie. But has heart and some great lines. 3 stars
7/23/09 Cal Loved it when it first came out, LOVE it 14 years later. Truly a brilliant take on "Emma" 5 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. i wonder if jane austen would have liked this. 4 stars
6/28/07 gr117 I'm butt-crazy in love with this movie. /quote whore 5 stars
5/06/07 mb An empty headed movie for American teens to aspire to, which many do. 2 stars
2/08/07 Raph Branca A lot of fun. Classic high school comedy. 4 stars
2/03/07 David Pollastrini Alicia looks hot in this movie! 4 stars
10/06/06 Jay is not good 1 stars
5/06/06 dionwr Wonderful re-do of Austen 4 stars
5/02/06 Ryan_A Sorry, I dug it. A lot. 4 stars
5/02/06 William Goss Like, totally! 3 stars
5/02/06 David Cornelius As if. 2 stars
5/02/06 HBS-SH the version you HAVE seen 4 stars
4/02/06 JRE funny 4 stars
11/25/05 cr a great teeny bopper and sexy alisa sliverstone, fun and entertaining 3 stars
5/03/05 Indrid Cold OK, but it's popularity has mainly to do with AS's charisma. 3 stars
3/22/05 jessica this is the best movie and has awsome clothes!!!! "you a virgin and you cant drive!" 5 stars
3/13/05 Ronin As much as I despise teen flicks I really liked clueless. Greg you are blind dude. 4 stars
3/08/05 Holly MIller I love it 5 stars
2/17/05 Daveman The film, fittingly enough, is more than meets the eye, one of the best of its kind. 4 stars
12/06/04 Grace Elizabeth Worth A very entertaining film however room for improvement 3 stars
10/24/04 Sammie J yea Yea !!!!!! Dis film rocks mi socks !!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/15/04 T. Maj Clever and sweet; one of the best teen movies ever 5 stars
6/05/04 Dean Rapp Not bad 4 stars
5/03/04 Franky this is the best movie my boyfriend and i just luv it 5 stars
4/22/04 sylvia awesome 5 stars
1/23/04 Chloe Brody I can't believe that Cher n' co are meant to be 15! Jeezus - very funny-Paul Rudd rocks! 5 stars
12/10/03 Samuel Silly, but in a good way... 3 stars
11/23/03 k LOVE IT 5 stars
10/13/03 Nikki Nelson GREAT MOVIE 5 stars
9/21/03 Darryl VERY funny movie! Shame that Alicia's career has gone downhill ever since. 4 stars
9/11/03 SUck My Balls you are a homosexual!!! fucin faggg 5 stars
8/11/03 Nicole One of my guilty pleasures 4 stars
7/23/03 Jovan This was one of the funniest and coolest movies Ive ever seen 5 stars
7/17/03 Emily I know every line in the movie!This is truely how the early 90's will be remembered! 5 stars
7/08/03 laura just an averaage teen movie with out any real change or any real dialogue 3 stars
4/01/03 Jack Sommersby The satire stuff is tired, but its got heart and a sensational Silverstone. 4 stars
3/04/03 Clint awesome 5 stars
11/16/02 Big Ted Best Teen Film. Ever. 5 stars
10/09/02 marta i loved this movie it was awsome and the part with JOSH KISSING CHER omgggggg 5 stars
7/22/02 Guy Fagerton This is my favorite movie ever! And I'm a guy! No, I'm not a homosexual. Fuck you, asshole! 5 stars
7/10/02 R.W. Welch Incisively scripted for a teen flick; engaging performances. 4 stars
7/07/02 hilarydsur awesome 5 stars
5/27/02 Nicole Great low-brow humor 4 stars
5/15/02 Blake This movie was a real good chick flick. 5 stars
4/30/02 CAT This is a fuckin great film, and its more of a teen film then a chick flick.. 5 stars
4/24/02 Danielle Ophelia The vernacular's nowhere near a hilarious as they seem to think it is. 3 stars
1/14/02 Andrew Carden Beyond What You'd Think A Chick Flick Could Hold As Being Annoying. 2 stars
11/24/01 tennille this is a great movie and i am glad to have studied it at school 5 stars
11/16/01 John Much better than I expected 5 stars
10/22/01 Tam Sets the standard for bubblegum teen-comedies. Very memorable. 5 stars
9/06/01 Gary Occasionally way too perky, but this remains a funny and always enjoyable modern comedy. 4 stars
9/04/01 Henry Ginsberg Oh good,i'm not the only persion here who liked this film. 5 stars
9/03/01 Butterbean Thankfully remained high spirited, unlike Fast Times at Ridgemont High. 5 stars
4/25/01 Rachel Toler whatEVER if you didn't like this movie...quotable, made my parents laugh, good tunes(bowie) 5 stars
3/31/01 4 Skin One of the most wonderfully lighthearted movies ever. Alicia is perfection. =^) 5 stars
3/13/01 Kari Lee Nothing could be better than valley-girl idocy with a twist of charity. 5 stars
2/16/01 Jake Rudd was cool. Freeway scene was funny 5 stars
2/05/01 Ciara I really, really admire Cher not just for her sense of style but for her attitude! 5 stars
1/03/01 Jacqueline it was a really cute movies with a good plot 5 stars
11/27/00 hk truly captures the "valley girl" air 4 stars
11/05/00 Jon I thought it would suck but it blew me away... a great high school fantisy movie :-) 5 stars
11/02/00 stardust it was k 4 stars
10/22/00 Jed I have to agree with steve layne-sorry. 2 stars
9/20/00 Greg N. Weinstein Kinda funny... 3 stars
7/19/00 Tandi funny 5 stars
6/26/00 Baldwin One of best written movies in years. Alicia is sensationally beautiful and talented. Wow 5 stars
5/21/00 mellemel I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. 5 stars
4/08/00 Gremlin As hot as she is, Alicia Silverstone could not save this asswhip of a movie 1 stars
3/27/00 Lollie brilliantly funny and charming 5 stars
3/19/00 Lame-Oh better than that putrid Jawbreaker movie 5 stars
2/17/00 Bozo Kyle, you're a genius-these arseholes don't know what they're talking about 5 stars
2/11/00 Kyle Broflovski Pleasant surprise. They were SUPPOSED to be shallow & self-absorbed; DUH!!!! 5 stars
2/06/00 Steve Layne One of the most overrated movies of the 90's 2 stars
12/10/99 Paull Better then what I thought it would be. A funny movie for today, not another teen flick 4 stars
12/07/99 jill broderick alicia is dazzling; the Emma of the 90's 5 stars
11/04/99 Mickey "Father Death" MacJohnstmyster Surprisingly okay, well it beats her other trash by a long way at least. 4 stars
10/08/99 bec best movie ever! 5 stars
10/07/99 Anne Morrissey This film is so cool!! If you feel like watching something totally predictable, watch this 5 stars
10/07/99 Amanda I loved the movie! It was a ton of fun and portrayed the teens of today. 5 stars
8/22/99 sugarstar cult teen flick 5 stars
8/11/99 Japtalian Great teenager flick. Love that Stacy Dash! 5 stars
7/24/99 Larry Flynt Alicia's such a babe. I want to hose her right now!!!! 5 stars
7/07/99 Duck Not too bad.... 3 stars
4/16/99 Brad I couldn't sit though all the way. it was so bad I had to take breaks. 1 stars
4/15/99 Jon Jackson pretty funny, kinda dumb 4 stars
4/12/99 Jennifer Brown Paul Rudd is so cute!!!!! 5 stars
4/12/99 Alonzo ( Pretty good, until the end. Not your average dumbed down high school flick 5 stars
4/10/99 Keith Calder Alicia Silverstone's only good movie. Very witty and smartly written. 5 stars
4/08/99 Daun Harner This movie is totally rockin'!!! 5 stars
4/07/99 Michael Grimm pretty good 4 stars
3/18/99 AMANDA I LOVE IT! 5 stars
3/10/99 Ah Dooey Loved the movie and the TV series. Hilarious indeed. 5 stars
3/06/99 Mike Rotch Truly awesome! 5 stars
1/28/99 donkey_dew Very, very funny. 5 stars
1/26/99 {{{OZ}}} Avoided seeing this for a long time... but it was damn funny. 5 stars
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  19-Jul-1995 (PG-13)
  DVD: 30-Aug-2005


  14-Sep-1995 (M)

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