Romy and Michele's High School Reunion: 15th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (17th November 2012).
The Film

I can’t say I’ve ever found myself wishing for film’s feminine answer to “Dumb and Dumber” (1994), but that’s more or less how I would describe “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” (1997) to a virginal viewer. Which, until a couple of days ago, I was. Truthfully, I avoided the film since its release for one simple reason: it looked like a chick flick. And, ostensibly, it is. But there’s a little more under the hood than I was expecting. That isn’t to say that I experienced some great epiphany and realized this was some dark horse I’d overlooked for too long; it just happened to catch me off guard with some well-placed zingers, a mostly sharp script, and a bevy of familiar faces to give the proceedings some weight. This is a comedy that doesn’t play by real world rules; it’s a series of misadventures from one scene to the next, much of it completely outside the realm of possibility if these women actually existed. I mean this simply in terms of where these girls are in life, how they live, and what they achieve despite some very clear obstacles that should be standing in their way. But no one should be caring about that here. This is a silly film with a simple message that has a lot of fun spreading the word.

Romy White (Mira Sorvino) and Michele Weinberger (Lisa Kudrow) have been nest friends since high school. Since graduation, they’ve lived together, worked a slew of menial jobs, had a lot of fun… and not much else. This realization comes to them when an invitation arrives for their 10th anniversary high school reunion. Romy is concerned that everyone will make fun of them and tease them mercilessly, just as they did in school all those years ago. Rather than show up and be the schlubs they are, the two concoct a plan to pose as businesswomen – fancy suits and all – who invented Post-Its, so that everyone will be super impressed by how successful they’ve become. They finagle a Jaguar from one of Romy’s co-workers at the auto dealership, and the two hit the road for their big event.

This movie requires some serious suspension of disbelief if I want to scrutinize the hell out of it. For one thing, despite the fact that Romy works a low wage job and Michele is unemployed, they’re able to afford beach-front property on Venice Beach’s famed boardwalk. I’d love to know what landlord they blew for that deal, because there’s no way these two could afford a place that nice unless there was something seriously shady going on. But you aren’t supposed to think about that.

The ending also continues this theme, allowing both of our leads to enjoy the fantasy life they wanted all along. Without spoiling too much – since you couldn’t have possibly thought something bad would happen – it affirms the fact that even the most inane, vapid characters can pull off successes in life that you only dream of. But you aren’t supposed to think about that. Especially, since, well, you do feel kinda happy for them.

As I mentioned before, I love the cast of characters here. Lisa Kudrow, as she always has, does nothing for me. Between this and her role on “Friends” (which is about all I’ve ever seen her in) it seems like she excels at playing the airheaded blonde with a shrill voice; not exactly my cup of tea. Sorvino, on the other hand, has a real charming, stupid/seductive personality here, even if she does turn on the Malibu, California accent a little too often. Maybe it’s because I find Mira the more attractive of the two, maybe it’s because she’s the better actress, but she was a large part of maintaining my interest throughout. 90's perpetual downer Janeane Garofalo plays Heather, former classmate to both girls. She was the goth-y chick in high school that smoked behind walls and told most people to “f*ck off” while secretly wanting to be accepted. And behind one of those walls you’d also find a young-ish Justin Theroux, who is sadly best known for being Jennifer Aniston’s latest attempt at not being an old maid, but film fans should know him from his role in David Lynch’s masterpiece “Mulholland Drive” (2001). His role here is brief, and slightly goofy, but it is a bit ironic given his character in Lynch’s film. Alan Cumming plays the former-nerd-turned-millionaire-heartthrob, Sandy Frink. The prosthetic work done on him to appear more attractive later in the film is pretty impressive.

Speaking of prosthetic work, the film veers off into Bizarro World at one point and they don’t really clue you in to what’s going on for a while. This was actually my favorite part of the film, because things start to get very surreal. Old-age fantasies, nonsensical awards, eternal grudges, death… this little detour really proved to me that this film just wanted to do nothing more than have some fun. I almost wish they’d just gone all-out and made the film more outlandish, with more of the daydreaming fantasies that made this little bit so amusing. I felt like I understood what the film was going for a little more when I learned that the director, David Mirkin, was the showrunner for “The Simpsons” (1989-Present) during its fifth and sixth seasons. As fans and critics have noted, those seasons were notable for their attempts at making the show’s humor more surreal and absurd. Although he only received one writing credit on the show, it’s for one of the most memorable episodes – “Deep Space Homer”. Mirkin never allows this film to take itself seriously (which it shouldn’t), so therefore we never have to worry about taking any of the events seriously. When comedy is able to flow freely in an environment such as this, that’s when it can be fun, unexpected.

On a final note, fans of Quentin Tarantino, Sorvino’s former boyfriend, might notice some barely-hidden ads for fictional products featured in his movies. In the girls’ apartment, look out for a Big Kahuna Burger bag. And when Romy & Michele are outside their apartment, keen-eyed viewers should be able to spot a wall-sized ad for Red Apple cigarettes. Pretty cool.

Video

Presented in 1.78:1 1080p 24/fps, AVC MPEG-4 encode, “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” was made in the late 90's, a period of cinema not well remembered for its distinct, striking visual style. As such, the image provided here looks fairly unimpressive, if not completely acceptable due to lack of digital manipulation. Similar to Disney’s recent release of “Adventures in Babysitting” (1987), this film hasn’t been given a digital clean-up via DNR scrubbing or any of that other nonsense. Presented as it is, things could certainly be better, though. The opening titles look particularly rough, but I’d chalked that up to the optical title effects rather than a bad transfer; at least all the various fabrics look nice. The picture does have a slightly soft appearance to it, but exhibits a decent amount of detail with closer shots. Long shots are almost devoid of any fine details, but the image holds up better than it would in SD. Colors are average; they’re reproduced just fine, but the overall palette is slightly drab for such a fun, vibrant film. The image lacks depth that you’d normally associate with glossier high def imagery, but all in all it looks – and feels – appropriate for the film.

Audio

Presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound mixed at 48kHz/24-bit, I can’t recall the last time I watched a movie with so many contemporary songs clogging up the soundtrack. This picture is replete with 90's hits and 80's classics; so many that your system will hardly have time to take a breath after one before cranking another right up. I didn’t mind all the music because it: a) reminded me of my formative days in which were during this period; b) it kept the pace up. Even better, the dialogue never gets lost in the mix. There’s a scene early on where the dynamic duo heads over to a night club, and not once did I have difficulty understanding anyone speaking despite there being a considerably loud dance beat going on the entire time. Bass response was solid, with a good low end giving the track a more robust quality. I honestly don’t recall how the actual score was since so much of the film was dominated by poppy tracks. Additional tracks are in French or Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround with subtitles in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Surprisingly enough, this Blu-ray – billed as a “15th Anniversary Edition” – actually has extras. Well, an extra. Still, it’s more than most of Disney’s special editions receive.

“Production Featurette” (480p) runs for 3 minutes and 34 seconds. This extremely brief featurette covers the basics of the story, while allowing the principal cast and director to talk a bit about what it’s all about.

The film’s theatrical trailer (480p) runs for 1 minute and 41 seconds. Considering the film is predicated on one-liners and dumb jokes, this cut together pretty damn well. “Blonde leading the blonde” is such a fitting tagline.

Finally, the disc contains bonus trailers (1080p) for some other Disney releases:

- “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” runs for 2 minutes and 22 seconds.
- “The Avengers” runs for 1 minute and 4 seconds.
- “Who Framed Roger Rabbit: 25th Anniversary Edition” runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds.
- Disney’s ever-present anti-smoking PSA runs for 50 seconds.

Packaging

The 50 GB single disc comes housed in a standard blu-ray keep case with original theatrical art adorning the cover.

Overall

While I still think it’s more for chicks, this is a rare film that has some crossover appeal to men, too. Both of the leads really sell their characters well, it has some witty scripting, the absurd nature of it all is admittedly infectious, and it’s far too silly to not find some enjoyment in there somewhere. Disney may not have given this a pumped up edition to please fans, but the solid, unaltered A/V presentation makes this a Blu-ray worth dropping a few bucks on.

The Film: B- Video: B- Audio: B Extras: D+ Overall: C+

 


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