The 1995 comedy Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone, is now available on Blu-ray. Amy Heckerling, director of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, helms the film. Like Fast Times, Clueless is a film about teenagers. It has a much more comedic tone than Fast Times, but in its own way takes a realistic look at the teenage mind. Instead of sex and drugs, time is spent exploring the more innocent world of puppy love, dating, learning to drive, and getting good grades. Despite being nearly 20 years old, Clueless remains fresh and funny due to its clever writing and good performances.
Clueless is loosely based on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma. Silverstone plays Cher Horowitz who, like the novel’s Emma, is a rich socialite playing matchmaker to everyone but herself. Cher is both ditzy and clever at the same time. She speaks with an impressive vocabulary, dotes on her windowed father (Dan Hedaya), and knows just enough about a variety of subjects to get by. However, her world revolves around clothes, her friends, and the mall. She gives inane speeches about illegal immigration and violence on television in her debate class, much to the chagrin of her teacher Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn). Cher and her best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) are popular, but they are not “mean girls.” Yes, they are a little snobby, but for the most part they are pretty nice. Avoiding this cliché helps separate Clueless from typical teen fare.
Cher and Dionne befriend Tai (Brittany Murphy), a new student who is fashionably challenged, and make it their personal project to give her a makeover. By makeover they mean turn her into them, but their intentions are good. Tai is surprisingly willing to be molded into a different person, much to the delight, and later dismay, of Cher. While Cher always seems to strive for positivity she has a few obstacles in her way. She failed her driving test, Mr. Hall won’t raise her grade, and she has to put up with her former step-brother Josh (Paul Rudd). Cher’s dad is a litigator and Josh comes by from time to time to help out with the cases. Cher doesn’t understand why she has to spend time with Josh since her dad and his mom have been divorced for five years. Cher’s dad replies that people “divorce wives not children” in a genuinely touching moment from the film.
Oh, and Cher is also romantically challenged. This is not something that bothered her all that much until playing matchmaker to Mr. Hall and another teacher (in a misguided effort to raise her grade). She realizes that romance is something she has been missing out on. So she simultaneously seeks a boyfriend for herself and for the equally romantically challenged Tai. As Cher deals with potential suitors, her friends, her dad, and Josh she begins to grow as a person. The film handles all of this in a lighthearted funny way that never wears out its welcome. The jokes are smart and funny, and the story is never bogged down with plot mechanics. The humor is still fresh even if some of the references might be a bit dated. At the time kids calling each other on a cell phone as they walk to meet each other in the hall probably seemed like a funny exaggeration. Little did they know just how quickly that would become a reality.
Clueless debuts in high definition with a sharp and colorful 1080p transfer. Though 17 years old, the movie looks amazingly current. Only a natural amount of fine grain dates the film, but that’s not a bad thing. The picture is sharp and detailed in all lighting situations. The bright, vivid colors are well represented. Showing its age a little more is the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, which sounds fine but isn’t remarkable. The music is crisp but could have used a bit heavier bass. The rear channels don’t get used very often, with most of the sound focused in the center, right, and left channels. There are no problems with the dialogue, which is clear at all times.
Disappointingly, the Blu-ray of Clueless doesn’t add anything exclusive in terms of special features. All of the featurettes are carried over from the 2005 special edition DVD. About of hour of standard definition material is spread over seven short pieces. The best ones are the 18 minute “Class of ’95,” which includes reminiscing from the various cast members, and the 10 minute “Creative Writing,” which looks at the development and evolution of the project. Sadly, the Blu-ray producers didn’t see fit to create a tribute to the late Brittany Murphy. That would have been entirely appropriate, given that Clueless was Murphy’s breakthrough role.