A third Bill and Ted movie may be coming together, but one of the best dude flicks ever, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, has clocked up the big 3-0.
Of course, Fast Times is more than just an R-rated high school comedy, although Sean Penn may have played the best stoner dude in cinema history, Jeff Spicoli. In fact, many were surprised that the film dealt with real issues that teens had to deal with in a way that wasn’t patronizing, or TV-movie cheesy.
Like many teen films of the day, it of course had sex and nudity, it was certainly done in much better taste than rauncho-rama like Porky’s. And serious issues in the film, like teen pregnancy and abortion, were dealt with sensitivity.
Cameron Crowe, formerly a young star writer for Rolling Stone, went under cover as a high school student to write the film, and as he told Movieline, “I never had a senior year, and this was a chance to go back and do all those things I never had a chance to do. The truth is, I wanted to go to the prom.”
Fast Times opened small, but the teens of the era immediately knew it was a great movie, and Universal had to rush to get it in as many theaters as they could once they realized they had a hit on their hands.
In fact, Fast Times was a big part of the early eighties culture. Many of us wore checkerboard Vans shoes, knew Spicoli’s dialogue line for line, and strove to be as funny and carefree as he was. Fast Times hit the theaters during that special time of Atari arcade games, Rubik’s Cubes, E.T. and leg warmers, but it’s still a terrific film because it had more depth, and also foreshadowed the work of John Hughes, who also brilliantly, and accurately, captured teen angst.
It was Entertainment Weekly who reminded me of Fast Times’s anniversary, and they also reprinted a message Cameron Crowe posted on his website, TheUncool.com, which refers to a line in Almost Famous. He looked back on the last day, where director Amy Heckerling “powered through a tough schedule, and we’d snuck the movie through the studio system.”
Sean Penn was in character the whole time, but on the last day he introduced himself as Sean. “We all felt instantly nostalgic for the blonde stoner we’d known and called Jeff the previous three months,” Crowe continued.
EW also put up a poll, asking readers if Spicoli is the best stoner character ever created. Come on! Isn’t that a given by now?