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Romy and Michele Never Really, Like, Cut Loose
movie review by Gary Johnson

Go to: the official web site for Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

[rating: 1 of 4 stars]
Walking into Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, I was hoping to find a sleeper comedy. I'd passed up the screening of Volcano because I'd seen too many special effects bonanzas lately and didn't think I could stomach another one. A modest little comedy sounded just right.

Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.

Touchstone Pictures. All rights reserved.)

And while, it isn't exactly bad, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion is an infinitely lightweight little movie that never becomes particularly inspired. The potential is there. With the wonderful Mira Sorvino and the delightfully daffy Lisa Kudrow, not to mention Janeane Garofalo (one of the funniest women in America), this movie has a trio of good comedic actresses and a simply daffy central premise, but this movie never really gels.

In part, the problem is the filmmakers never let the movie get crazy. With the exception of one long dream sequence right in the middle of the movie, the comedy is relatively low-key stuff. We see Romy (Sorvino) and Michele (Kudrow) mooning over their old high school yearbook when they learn of the upcoming high school reunion, dreaming about old crushes (with a football star) and still festering from ridicule (mostly from snobbish cheerleaders). With Romy and Michele lusting to walk into the reunion and blow everyone away with stories of their success, the stage is set for some wild shenanigans, but not much really happens.

Lisa Kudrow, Janeane Garofalo, and Mira Sorvino.

Touchstone Pictures. All rights reserved.)

We get some good little bits of comedy, as when Romy and Michele whoop it up as they jump into their car and start the road trip to their old hometown: the car's engine promptly dies. They restart it, start whooping again, and drop it into gear. It dies. They start it again, start whooping, and it dies. It's a funny scene. But most of the rest of the humor is similarly low-key stuff.

The filmmakers seem to genuinely like Romy and Michele. They take few potshots at the characters, which would be much too easy to do. Instead, they give us an occasionally sensitive story about two never-has-beens who desperately want to impress their old school chums. Romy and Michele love life and they walk through it in a bemused funk, so impressed with their own bizarre fashions that they never really notice that they haven't accomplished anything in their lives. Such as, Romy: "This is the best you've ever looked." Michele: "Don't you love the way we can say things like that and know we're not being conceited because, like, we really mean it."

Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino.

(©1997 Touchstone Pictures. All rights reserved.)

But they are a sad little two-some. They usually end up dancing by themselves because no one else asks them to dance. They stand apart from everyone else everywhere they go. "Fashion is like everything," says Michele. They wear bright oranges, yellows, and pinks and don't skimp on the feathers and sequins either. But no one pays them any attention.

For the first half-hour or so the mood of the movie is a pleasant, amusing brand of kitsch, but the filmmakers keep missing opportunity after opportunity. As the movie keeps delivering flashbacks to Romy and Michele's high school years, the movie has plenty of opportunities to let the comedy get exaggerated and absurd, but the filmmakers always keep the action relatively restrained--with the exception of a long, misguided dream sequence that features a few wonderfully wacky bits of comedy. The dream sequence only ends up emphasizing the paucity of inventive humor in the rest of the movie.

When Romy and Michele finally get to their high school reunion and their business-women facade starts to crumble, the movie becomes pathetic and deteriorates into a predictable little piffle about the value of being honest and enjoying life. Still, every time Mira Sorvino steps onto the screen the movie becomes electrified. She is a wonderful actress who seems to genuinely love her character. And Lisa Kudrow delivers a fine performance as well. But they're trapped in a movie that never takes full advantage of the kitschy premise. Instead of getting a wild comedy about two ditzy, walking fashion disasters, we get a sensitive story about the value of friendships.

Romy and Michele is based upon characters from a hit play, "Ladies Room" by Robin Schiff (which starred a pre-"Friends" Lisa Kudrow), from nearly a decade ago. In that play, Romy and Michele were only supporting roles, but audiences consistently loved the characters: two banal, ordinary-looking women who thought they were hot disco babes. In fact, Romy and Michele were the high points of the play. In small doses, as in "Ladies Room," Romy and Michele are tolerable, and, yes, even funny (sometimes howlingly funny, as when they argue about which one is the "Mary" and which is the "Rhoda"), but ultimately the two central characters are too slight and insubstantial to sustain interest throughout an entire feature length movie. I only hope Mira Sorvino chooses better roles in the future. Her talents are unfortunately wasted in this movie.

A Touchstone Pictures Presentation


RomyMira Sorvino
MicheleLisa Kudrow
HeatherJaneane Garofalo
Sandy FrankAlan Cumming
ChristieJulia Campbell
CherylMia Cottet
KellyKristin Bauer
LisaElaine Hendrix
BillyVincent Ventresca
TobyCamryn Manheim
CowboyJustin Theroux
RamonJacob Vargas
Directed byDavid Mirkin
Produced byLaurence Mark
Screenplay byRobin Schiff
Director of PhotographyReynaldo Villalobos
Production DesignerMayne berke
Score bySteve Bartek
Costume DesignerMona May
EditorDavid Finfer
Co-ProducerRichard Luke Rothschild
Executive ProducersBarry Kemp
Robin Schiff
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