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Empire Records

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Empire Records

Starring: Anthony LaPaglia, Debi Mazar
Director: Allan Moyle
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 91 Minutes
Release Date: October 1995
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Rory Cochrane, Robin Tunney, Renee Zellweger, Maxwell Caulfield, Liv Tyler, Johnny Whitworth, Ethan Embry, Ben Bode

Review by Dragan Antulov
1 star out of 4

Since teenagers form the most crucial segment of American movie- going public, it is quite understandable why Hollywood tries to adapt its products to their tastes or current cultural trends. But sometimes it tries too hard and the results are often disappointing. One of such examples is EMPIRE RECORDS, 1995 teen comedy directed by Allan Moyle.

The plot takes place in "Empire Records", small music store in Delaware, and follows 24 hours in lives of its employees, all of them being teenagers. The only adult is Joe (played by Anthony La Paglia), manager who tries to be fatherly figure to its subordinates, which results in young people doing anything but their job. Because of that "Empire Records" has in financial trouble and there is talk of being taken over by faceless music chain that enforces dress code and other business practices too oppressive for young Gen Xers. Lucas (played by Rory Cochrane), one of the employees, has tried to stop the inevitable by stealing the money from the cash register and trying to multiply it in Atlantic City. He lost it all, but Joe has more pressing matters at hand because the store is about to be visited by pop star Rex Manning (played by Maxwell Caulfield). In the meantime the employees are dealing with some of their own issues - love, sex, rock music ambitions, attempted suicides etc.

At first glance, EMPIRE RECORDS had all the ingredients of successful youth-oriented film - screenplay with anti-establishment attitudes and pandering to the Generation X sentiments, cool soundtrack, plenty of young and good-looking actors and, last but not least, direction of Allan Moyle, filmmaker who had made PUMP UP THE VOLUME, very successful youth-oriented movie. However, all those elements are fused together in such manner than they leave impression of artificiality. No matter how "cool" the characters might be, few teenagers would take them seriously. Screenplay by Carol Haikkinen doesn't help either, because the events in film have little of no resemblance to real life, and some of them are too repetitive. When the "Empire Records" break into song and dance for the first time, it is somewhat funny; the next time it is dull. On the other hand, some of young actors have done rather decent job, especially Rory Cochrane in the role of Lucas and Robin Tunney who is almost unrecognisable with her shaved head. Two actresses that had more stellar career in future - Renee Zelwegger and Liv Tyler - didn't leave particularly good impression. All in all, EMPIRE RECORDS tried to capture the spirit of its time, but it only managed to capture the way Hollywood executives had understood this spirit.

Copyright 2003 Dragan Antulov

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