Reviewed by Reed Hubbard
Rating: 7.5 Beans
ecord store clerks are among the most despicable people in America. Whenever I visit my local music shop to purchase a CD, I must invariably deal with a multi-pierced, tattooed, societal misfit who knocks back five bucks an hour sneering at those customers whose musical tastes do not parallel his. It seems to be a universal truth that snotty teens with bad attitudes and no direction tend to gravitate toward record store employment, so who in the world thinks we want to watch ninety minutes of these people?
Well someone does, because "Empire Records" was foisted upon the public. The most amazing thing is that screenwriter Carol Heikkinen was able to squeeze an hour and a half out of thirteen minutes of material. This day-in-the-life play chronicles the goings on at an independent record store that is about to experience the most horrific of fates - becoming part of a national chain. Life is tough. The characters read like the Who’s Who of Movie Stereotypes. We have Debra the Rebel, Gina the Slut, Corey the Perfect Girl, Lucas the Smart Ass, A.J. the Artist, Mark the Stoner, and leading this slice of American youth, Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) the Frustrated Musician who hammers away on his drums to relieve anxiety. Plus, as a bonus, we get the Materialistic Yuppie owner, who would rather sell plumbing supplies than music. What a crew (excuse me…Crüe)!
The big corporate takeover isn’t enough to sustain a story, so a has-been rocker (Matthew Caulfield) turns up to sign autographs. Corey (Liv Tyler) throws herself at him, as does Gina (Renée Zellweger). Still not much substance, so everyone’s troubles come out. The problem is, they are introduced and corrected in minutes. Hell, even the Brady Bunch took half an hour to solve their dilemmas! Halfway through the movie Corey pops a pill. Ten minutes later we learn that she’s a speed freak and watch her fall apart in the back room. Someone shoves her head in a sink and she’s fine! We discover that Debra (Robin Tunney) tried to off herself the night before (Why? We don’t know! It’s never really explained), so the entire staff gathers in the back room (customers be damned!) and holds a mock funeral for her, candles and all, to show her what it would be like to die. Just your average day at the local music shop.
This movie is rife with absurdity. Lucas (Rory Cochrane) steals the previous day’s receipts and gambles it all away in Atlantic City. He doesn’t get fired. Gina bangs the visiting celeb in the back room while everyone listens. She doesn’t get fired and they kick him out. A shoplifter comes in firing a gun in a crowded store. They hire him to work there. Please! What national chain would want this place? All this lunacy leads up to the obligatory "Save Our Store" kegger where every slacker in the city comes out to raise enough money for Joe to buy the place. I felt like I was watching "FM - The Next Generation."
This is the kind of movie that is adored by pseudo-intelligent adolescents who rave in earnest about the poetic merit of Jim Morrison’s "Horse Latitudes" and drive 400 miles to a Grateful Dead concert in daddy’s BMW. There ain’t much meat here, so the gaping holes are filled with musical interludes and dancing patrons. One of the gang, waxing poetic, says, "This music is the glue of the world! It holds it all together. Without this, life would be meaningless!" Wrong. This music is the glue of this movie, although there isn’t much to hold together. But even with it, "Empire Records" is meaningless.
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Hit-n-Run Productions, © 1997-2006,
a subsidiary of Syphon Interactive, LLC.
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