Part of the charm of 'Clueless' is Alicia Silverstone and her portrayal of a swank, upscale, spoiled ditz. Prior to her turn as a promising starlet, she was better known as "the Aerosmith chick," but her role as the superficial Cher Horowitz quickly overshadowed that image. Providing voiceover narration throughout, Silverstone is irresistible, delivering witty lines, like the origins of her and Dionne's (Stacey Dash) names, with hilarious sincerity, totally unaware of their irony. Although the character flaunts her wealth with arrogant self-assuredness, Silverstone sells an otherwise annoying character with surprising likability and a good-hearted sweetness hiding beneath an ultimately shallow existence.
Believing without reserve that she can argue (as in persuade) anyone into doing what she wants, Cher's one moment of playing matchmaker in order to improve her grades paves the way to other acts of charity and goodwill. Of course, her failure to realize her good deeds arises from her own selfish whims leads to more comedic situations, starting with a makeover of the new girl, Tai (Brittany Murphy), which she and Dionne deem a fashion victim. As with Silverstone, Murphy also turns on the charm as the unconfident, self-doubting teen with a thick Jersey accent. She plays the role with a winsome credulity and awkwardness that's very convincing, making her eventual transformation amusingly believable.
As the narrative progresses with Cher's search for love, the bubblegum, spirited peppiness of all the characters becomes highly infectious. From the dashingly handsome, Priestley/Perry wannabe (Justin Walker) to the strange fashionista, even-more-pampered Amber (Elisa Donovan), they each possess unique idiosyncrasies which make them memorable. We're immersed in a fictitious universe of material possessions, completely devoid of social concerns, except for the Pismo Beach Relief Fund, which in itself offers a few laughs. This is a world where the invented, absurdly hyperbolic language of teens sounds weirdly authentic and only on rare occasions bewildering. A big part of the movie's enjoyment comes from these kids interacting with one another.
The success of all this is without doubt credited to the talents of Amy Heckerling, who somehow seems to keep a finger on the pulse of trendy teens. Just as she did with 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' a decade earlier, she captures a generation's zeal for life and displays it for all its outlandish glory, eventually becoming a fortuitous cultural reference point several years later. Taking inspiration from Jane Austen's Emma, Heckerling gives the classic novel's story on the dangers of meddling with other people's lives a clever, contemporary makeover younger viewers still find a relevant satire. And those familiar with Austen's book can also find amusement with how the director translates certain aspects of the tale, like Paul Rudd's version of Mr. Knightley.
Like its successors, 'Mean Girls' and 'Easy A,' a decade later, 'Clueless' comes with a distinctive peek into the world of teen girls which transcends gender and age boundaries, offering a focused intent as a highly entertaining comedy of manners. Coming up on its 20th anniversary, it's actually surprising to see the snobbish pretentiousness of the characters occupying Heckerling's script remains disarmingly appealing and funny. The bubbly, energetic atmosphere keeps it a lighthearted, glitzy diversion with little else going on in the noggin, but like the film's heroine, there is also a good-natured sweetness underneath which makes it memorable.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Paramount Home Entertainment brings 'Clueless' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a blue, eco-cutout case and a hot-pink, glossy slipcover with embossed faux-glitter meant to look like shiny diamonds. The package includes a flyer with information for entering a contest to win a trip to any destination. At startup, the disc goes straight to an animated main menu with heart-shaped necklaces swinging across the screen and finishing with a heart-shaped vanity mirror which show full-motion clips with music in the background.
As if this fab comedy could ever be a Barney. What-ever.
Seriously though, 'Clueless' arrives to Blu-ray in style, sporting a great-looking and sometimes dazzling 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Contrast is comfortable bright, giving the 1.85:1 frame an attractive, energetic pop. Bubblegum colors add to the picture's pep with richly-saturated and animated primaries, providing the movie's overall feel with an enthusiastic, lively appeal. Blacks are accurate and quite striking in some scenes while shadow details are plainly perceptible in the several nighttime sequences. Definition and clarity are surprisingly excellent, with sharp, distinct lines on clothing, hair, and around the architecture of various Beverly Hills homes. Facial complexions are healthy and revealing.
Unfortunately, the video is not totally perfect, showing embarrassing age spots in a some places. A few scenes are poorly-resolved and look very soft with a bit of noise around the edges. There are also a couple moments when the image seems artificially sharpened although not terribly ugly or distracting. All in all, the high-def presentation is a significant improvement over previous releases.
Bummer, the audio isn't like a Baldwin or something, but at least it's not a total Monet.
Granted, the slang isn't a perfectly suited description of the high-rez audio offered on this Blu-ray, but it gets the point across. Giving the pop-song selections throughout the movie, you'd think the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack would have a bit more to offer. That's not to say it is terrible or anything, but bass feels pretty anemic and doesn't leave much of an impression. The rears also don't show much activity except some very mild bleeds during the music and songs. The front soundstage does most of the work with well-prioritized vocals, excellent channel separation and decently wide imaging. Dynamic range exhibits good clarity in the mids and remains evenly balanced from beginning to end. It's as striking or memorable as the video, but the lossless mix is still good and gets the job done for a teen comedy.
Supplements are carried over from the 10th anniversary DVD, dubbed the Whatever Edition.
Nearly twenty years since its release, 'Clueless' remains a charming teen satire with a terrifically memorable performance by Alicia Silverstone. Writer/director Amy Heckerling restyles and refashions the classic Jane Austen novel, Emma, into a contemporary comedy of manners which has now become another cultural reference point about high school girls. The Blu-ray comes with an improved video presentation and very good audio, but the supplements are the same as previous releases. Still, fans will love the upgrade and aren't likely to find fault in their purchase.