Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: April 25th, 1997 MPAA Rating: R

Director: David Mirkin Actors: Mira Sorvino, Lisa Kudrow, Janeane Garofalo, Alan Cumming, Julia Campbell, Mia Cottet, Kirstin Bauer, Elaine Hendrix, Vincent Ventresca, Justin Theroux

 


 

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he film opens on Venice Beach, California to the triumphantly fitting tune of No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” as Romy White (Mira Sorvino) and Michele Weinberger (Lisa Kudrow) watch their favorite scene from “Pretty Woman.” The two have been best friends since high school and now spend their time trying to stay young, blonde, and definitely not conceited when they discuss how cute they are to one another. They also diet on gummy bears, jellybeans, and candy corn, and frequently go to clubs in search of compatible guys – only to routinely end up dancing by themselves.

At Romy’s cashier job at a Jaguar dealership, she meets Heather Mooney (Janeane Garofalo), a loud-mouthed, bitter woman who attended the same high school in Tucson, Arizona. After Heather mentions the upcoming ten-year reunion, Romy and Michele reminisce over their younger days through a series of flashbacks that demonstrate their burgeoning interests and social statuses. The two weren’t popular like stuck-up prom queen Christy Masters (Julia Campbell) and dreamy prom king Billy Christianson (Vincent Ventresca), but they also weren’t losers like science-fair geeks Heather and Sandy Frink (Alan Cumming).

The girls decide to go to the party, but realize that their current lives aren’t all that impressive. With two weeks before the event, they have precious little time to spice up their lifestyles, get Michele a classy job, and bag some new boyfriends. After a moderate, unsuccessful try, they decide instead to borrow a convertible, wear business suits, carry briefcases, and fabricate sophisticated, entrepreneurial careers. After all, they’re in California now, so no one from Tucson will know if they actually invented Post-It notes – the story they’re sticking with.

Like a “Saturday Night Live” skit adaptation, the comedy stems from hilariously moronic characters that wind up in even absurder situations. It’s all relatively lighthearted and cartoonish, with appropriately ditzy dialogue, slapstick, and an upbeat, pop music soundtrack. Once again, Mira Sorvino dons a specific, memorable voice to define her character, much like her turn in “Mighty Aphrodite” (1995). Although Kudrow doesn’t exhibit much range, both leads have a delightful, uncanny optimism that overcomes their momentary loss of friendship, embarrassment at the reunion, and lack of newsworthy accomplishments. This is contrasted in a particularly edgy manner through brief moments of R-rated language, which is rare for a predominantly innocent-minded premise. Garofalo creates quite a presence too, stealing scenes with her no-nonsense attitude, obsession with the color black, crass cursing, and the horror movie music that follows her around.

The themes of staying true to oneself, ignoring what other people think, sticking up for friends, and confronting bullies are practically spelled out for the audience, but they’re essential (and handled with aplomb) for this teen-oriented romantic comedy. There’s also a bit of revenge-fantasy mixed in to spite the popular kids and connect with the plagued-by-insignificance masses. Though there are breaks from realism (for the sake of style), including a Ferris Bueller-styled balletic dance moment and one of the longest dream sequences in cinema history, the good-natured feel of these air-headed characters makes “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” a genuinely fun feature. And their final, pink and turquoise outfits at the conclusion – symbols of embraced identities and renewed disregard for the judgment of peers – are just as iconic as Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels’ pastel blue and orange suits from “Dumb and Dumber.”

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10