Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Amy, Amy, Amy

I have a love/hate relationship with writer/director Amy Heckerling. While half her resume is pretty fucking impressive, the other half is marred by the ghosts of bad decisions past – namely turning most of her well-known films into sub-par television series.

Ms. Heckerling has had her hand in two generation-defining films – she directed Fast Times at Ridgemont High and wrote and directed Clueless. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of the former, but the latter is so witty and well written (it was even nominated for a Writers Guild Award) that it’s hard not to love, whether you came of age in the nineties or are a Jane Austen fan.

However, Ms. Heckerling’s resume also boasts the appalling Look Who’s Talking franchise; a disappointing teen flick called Loser starring then big-name actors Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari (fresh off American Pie); and the crown jewel of crap – three, yes THREE television adaptations of her successful films.

The first - an adaptation of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, simply known as “Fast Times.” The series lasted only seven episodes and cost a small fortune. It starred 80s’ and 00s’ it boy/man Patrick Dempsey, and a young Courtney Thorne-Smith whose fame tends to fluctuate like a bulimic’s weight. Not surprisingly, only two actors from the film reprised their roles (Vincent Schiavelli as Mr. Vargas and Ray Walston as Mr. Hand).

The second adaptation was “Baby Talk” based off Look Who’s Talking. The series lasted for two seasons and managed to plow through three lead actresses. Increasing the “what the fuck” factor, the baby was voiced by Tony Danza (while still working on Who’s The Boss?), guest starred George Clooney, and featured Scott Baio as a series regular…who also managed to plow through three lead actresses.

Finally, the third film-to-television monster was “Clueless.” I use the term ‘monster’ because this beast of a series lasted for three seasons and was inexplicably syndicated for a ludicrous amount of time. “Clueless” saw three of the leads reprising their roles for all 61 episodes (Dionne, Murray and Amber), while Alicia Silverstone went on to an ‘illustrious’ film career.

Anyway, the reason for my ode to Amy Heckerling…The other week I was flipping around the tube and came across a movie called I Could Never Be Your Woman – an Amy Heckerling film starring Paul Rudd and Michelle Pfeiffer. I thought, how can I lose? I loved that obscure mid-nineties song by the same name, was a huge fan of Clueless, and Paul Rudd is always good for a few laughs. I should have known better. The movie starts off with Tracey Ullman (yay!), waxing on and on about the foils love (boo!), dressed as Mother Nature (huh?). After this, Ms. Ullman has little to do with the film except when she occasionally pops up as a figment of Michelle Pfeiffer’s imagination in order to berate the forty-something television producer about dating the much younger Paul Rudd. And that’s pretty much the ENTIRE premise of the movie. Oh, I should also mention that Michelle Pfeiffer’s character’s television show is about a teenage girl growing up in Southern California (wink); and that the leads of the fictitious show are all played by much older actors (wink). You know, I really couldn’t tell if Ms. Heckerling was trying to satirize her real-life experiences…especially when she cast ONE OF THE FUCKING LEADS FROM THE FUCKING SHOW SHE WAS TRYING TO SATIRIZE! (In case you care, I am referring to Stacey “Dionne” Dash who plays a thirty-something actress portraying a sixteen year old on a TV series in the film).

The movie is pretty much abysmal, which explains why it was released straight to DVD. However, a huge bright spot of the film is an eleven-year-old Saoirse Ronan (no wonder this girl was nominated for an Oscar at fourteen). But her tiny little-girl arms can’t save this thing from drowning.

Amy Heckerling has recently been making news for an upcoming project she’s working on called Vamps, which will reunite her with Alicia Silverstone. I’m thinking this film can go either way – based on non-mathematical statistics, Ms. Heckerling has managed one hit per decade, so Vamps could do for vampire-obsessed girls what Clueless did for vapid, over-privileged teens; that is if Ms. Heckerling can pull off the same satire and wit she did with Clueless. However, her last film had about as much subtlety as a Vegas showgirl…which leads me to believe that Vamps will be a huge flop.

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