WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
There's a lot of The Breakfast Club in Allan Moyle's mildly amusing comedy Empire Records. The film takes place largely in one location over a short period of time; it's populated by mostly young characters and a couple of stern adults, all of whom tend toward clichés; it's punctuated every so often with current pop/rock interludes, in which the characters dance choreographed routines in the midst of everyday situations; and for most of the characters, this single day is so life-changing that they've all changed for the better by the end of the film. There are even some characters in Empire Records who bear too-striking resemblances to those in Breakfast Club. But whereas Breakfast Club stands as a genre classic, Empire Records is merely an occasionally humorous trifle.
Empire Records is a legendary music store located somewhere in Delaware. The manager, Joe (a sprightly Anthony LaPaglia), acts as something of a father figure to a gaggle of slacker employees. Well-intentioned but slightly off-kilter Lucas (Rory Cochrane) gets the plot moving when he uses one day's deposits in a misguided attempt to prevent a large company from taking over the store. Wholesome Corey (Liv Tyler) has just been accepted to Harvard but longs to lose her virginity to the unctuous Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield), who just happens to be stopping by the store for an autograph session. Troubled artist AJ (Johnny Whitworth) secretly longs for Corey but isn't sure how to profess his love. Store slut Gina (Renee Zellweger) is jealous of Corey, who has the perfect life and the perfect body. Rebel-type Debra (Robin Tunney) is just angry at the world. All these characters and more bounce off each other haphazardly throughout Empire Records' running time, sharing kooky conversations and crazy dance moves, and generally changing each others' lives forever.
You probably shouldn't pay too much attention to the plot, because its only purpose is to showcase these oddball individuals and provide scenes in which they can exchange witty dialog. So we're left with these snippets of Gen-X banter, delivered out of the corners of mouths, and they're occasionally funny, sometimes outright hilarious, but often just barely amusing. Can a feature film survive on just a string of obvious comic sequences? No, I don't believe most people will find Empire Records worthy of repeat viewings, but it is nice to see a few familiar young faces at work, early in their careers.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Warner presents Empire Records: Remix! Special Fan Edition in a pleasing anamorphic-widescreen transfer of the film's original 2.35:1 theatrical presentation. I was very impressed by the level of solid detail in this effort. It's a very clean, sharp presentation—despite what I'm about to say: I noticed some fairly heavy edge enhancement throughout. Also, the colors seem somewhat drab.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is a front-heavy affair. Although the front soundstage is nicely open, providing a fair amount of punch and clarity, the surrounds are seldom used, save for the occasional jarring effect and for musical ambience. Dialog is clear and accurate.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
The reason for the Empire Records: Remix! Special Fan Edition title is the inclusion of 17 minutes of additional and extended scenes. In other words, it truly is a "remixed" version of the film. On its original theatrical release, the film was cut down to a 90-minute runtime. The new 107-minute cut adds quite a bit of material. For example, Corey's red bra gets more attention, the character of Eddie is expanded, we meet Corey's little sister and see Corey read her Harvard letter, we get yet another music montage, Gina slips off her panties (!),we see more of Deb's angst, and so on.
However, beyond this new cut, there's really not much here, as far as supplements go. I expected this "special fan edition" to contain a plethora of special features, perhaps some retrospective featurettes and interviews, maybe a commentary or two. Nope. The biggest extra is a ho-hum selection of deleted scenes, presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.
Even more disappointing is that neither the film's new cut nor those Additional Scenes include the scenes involving Tobey Maguire, whose name appears in the film's end credits but whose role was cut entirely. All you get are Hey Joe: Game Boy (a 30-second bit of musical fluff involving the game), Rex and Berko (a 90-second conversation between the two characters that gives us a little background on the Caulfield character), Don Confronts Lucas (a 2-minute payoff for the opening scene), and Say No More Live (a moderately entertaining 3-minute scene involving Rex singing his hit song live at the end of the film).
The remainder of the extras are in the form of Cast & Crew filmographies, three fictional music videos that appear in the film—Rex Manning's Say No More, GWAR's Saddam A Go-Go, and GWAR's Vlad the Impaler Live—and the film's Theatrical Trailer.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
A fun movie if you're in the right nostalgic mood, but it's all been done before. The added scenes will be very attractive to fans of the film, but despite this DVD's title, there's not much to this special edition. Image quality is above average, however. Rent it.