Somewhere in the pantheon of great comedic duos, where the likes of Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis and of course, Laverne and Shirley reside, among many, many others, there must also be made room for one of the more eccentric and entertaining twosomes this side of 'The Odd Couple.' If anything, history has shown that audiences love it when a pair can play off one another to guarantee some well-earned guffaws, but the dimwitted ladies of 'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion' likely owe more to the similarly senseless slapstick brought to us by Harry and Lloyd in the Farrelly brothers' seminal 'Dumb and Dumber.'
More often than not, when it comes to crafting memorable duos, there is the sense that one of the two has to play it straight; one of them has to have the smarts, or be the responsible one. There were exceptions to this rule, but primarily, it was the idea that opposites attract. However, in writer Robin Schiff's world, as it was in 'Dumb and Dumber,' the lack of intellectual prowess on behalf of the film's titular characters makes for not only a more complete comedic experience, but also provides the film the heart that can so often be lacking in more modern comedies.
Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow) play high school besties; gleefully oblivious to the fact that ten years have passed since they vowed to leave Tucson and move to the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles. In that decade, the two have managed to secure an apartment (which they share), a wild assortment of clothes, and a deep, knowledgeable understanding of the intricacies of 'Pretty Woman' that even Garry Marshall didn't anticipate. As the pair prep for their pending 10-year-reunion, the realization dawns that the relative happiness with which they live may not look so impressive to the A-group girls who tormented them during high school. And so, the plan to fabricate a life of success and excess is cooked up on the spot – after an attempt to get fantastic boyfriends and a steady, yet enviable job for Michele in two weeks' time fails miserably.
In the women's quest for a status they never really knew they wanted, director David Mirkin (that's Mirkin, not merkin) delivers the laughs without a shred of self-awareness (exactly as Romy and Michele would do it), and it pays off. The women are painfully unaware what other people think of them and hilarious in their endeavors to just be one of the regular folk, when it's completely evident that, aided by their unique, creative fashion sense, they will both stick out like a sore thumb no matter where they land.
The film itself is something of a time capsule. Released in 1997, 'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion' bounces around the lives of the two women by taking them all the way back to their outcast days in high school where Michele wore a back brace, and Romy was considered the pudgy one. As is often the case, the most popular boy in school, Billy (Vincent Ventresca) is dating the most wretched of the A-group ringleaders, Christy Masters (Julia Campbell). Playing up Romy's innocent and involuntary rejection of social cliques, she desperately pines for Billy and his sweaty six-pack abs. Inevitably, Romy's emotions are used against her to play the typically cruel prank one plays at high school functions in films.
From there, the film flashes back to the present (or 1997), as Romy and Michele become intent on reclassifying themselves as successful business women – overlooking tiny details like what kind of business smarts they're actually fabricating. The film even jumps 70 years into the future, to see the potential end result of a minor feud in which the two girls argue over who is the Mary and who is the Rhoda (again bringing up the notion of comedic twosomes).
Looking at 'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion' now, is possibly the greatest way to see evidence of the film's time capsule effect. The soundtrack slings '80s hits with an ironic glee, having the two leggy co-stars prance around the dance floor with Sandy Frink (Alan Cumming) in an uproarious and uncomfortable segment, but it also opens up with the very contemporary (at the time) single 'Just a Girl' by '90s rock outfit No Doubt. Normally, this would instantly age the film, making it noticeably outdated, but here it works by adding another subtle layer of agelessness to the proceedings. Throw in some appearances by Janeane Garofalo as the ill-tempered, chain smoking Heather Mooney, Justin Theroux as her redneck tormenter, Clarence the cowboy and 'True Blood' star Kristen Bauer van Straten as Christie Masters' right-hand woman, Kelly, and the film acts as an exhibit, showing off all the neat little things tucked away inside the capsule so many years ago.
The film has more heart and sentiment than that, however. 'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion' is at its best when the daft women rail against their own insecurities and end up enhanced versions of their former selves: blissfully aware they're better off blissfully unaware.
The presentation for 'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion' is a mixed bag, to say the least. The film doesn't necessarily look awful; it just doesn't look like a proper Blu-ray release should. The bright colors of the character's often-outrageous outfits pop off the screen, and scenery comes off vivid and bright with strong, but never overpowering saturation – things to be expected in the candy-colored world Romy and Michele live in.
The 1080p AVC/ MPEG-4 codec brings out the best in what is clearly an uninspired and dated transfer – probably a hold over from the film's DVD release. The result is a grainy, mottled picture that shows the occasional flash of radiance on close-ups, but otherwise speaks very little about any effort put in on behalf a Blu-ray released under a 15th anniversary banner. At the very least, a new transfer could have given a new luster to film that probably deserves it.
Fine detail is scant and virtually absent, which is a real shame considering much of the film has to do with the women's love for and creation of fashion. This would have been a nice opportunity to peel the layer of grit from the film's transfer and add some pop and texture to the frequently changing wardrobes of Romy and Michele. As it stands, the only thing this transfer is highlighting is the lipstick on Mira Sorvino's teeth in a particular scene.
The film is presented with an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio transfer that nicely accentuates the film's lush soundtrack. Fans of '80s pop will no doubt (no pun intended) be enthused with the rich clarity in which these songs find themselves presented.
Elsewhere, dialogue comes through clearly, so you can enjoy the wonderfully bizarre way Mira Sorvino delivers her lines without a hint of distortion. Mostly, the film relies on scenes built around characters in conversation with one another, so there isn't too much else for the audio to do but play the hits. Imaging is well done in scenes where the ambiance of a party, or an outdoor high school lunch period requires the rear channels to induce the feeling of other voices in the background. The mix is especially effective during the reunion scene where the din of unintelligible conversations wander in and out of speakers as the characters move about the party.
Outside of the soundtrack, there's little need for any LFE; it's a talky film, and the disc accurately conveys the dialogue in every scene.
'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion' is a welcome blast from the past that deserves better Blu-ray treatment than it has received here. The film came out of left field to surprise and delight most critics and audiences 15 years ago. The end result is a delightful, funny, and quotable flick that – 15 years removed from its release – feels like it was partially shot on an alien planet. It's an enjoyable exercise in frivolity, but not a necessary upgrade for those who already own the DVD, as this provides nearly nothing in terms of HD improvements. This is a rental.