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USA 1995
Directed by
Allan Moyle
100 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars

Empire Records

It is little surprise that the promotional poster for this film pushes Liv Tyler to the fore. Although fellow cast member Renée Zellweger has gone on to bigger and much better things, the gorgeous Tyler is easily the best thing about this ham-fisted sub-Kevin Smith slacker teen comedy about a bunch of kids working in an indie Delaware record shop.   

Set on a single day when pop idol Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield) is doing an in-store promotion the story concerns the efforts of store manager Joe (an ill-cast Anthony LaPaglia) to keep the owner from selling out to chain-operators Music City, something made even harder after a well-intentioned employee loses Joe’s savings at an Atlantic City casino.

As a coming-of-age teen comedy Empire Records lacks any credibility, director Allan Moyle and writer Carol Heikkinen creating an ersatz world in which various mini-dramas dutifully take place over a 24 hour period to their Gen X types, the record store setting providing the opportunity to cram in a lot of pop tunes and would-be hip but direly lame antics.

Aside from LaPaglia's fish-out-of-water performance, the incongruity of the film is most apparent in the Rex Manning character. Looking like a minor left-over from the days of Glam Rock it is impossible to understand why this douche bag would be being celebrated by these supposedly hipster kids, let alone to the extent that Harvard-bound Corey (Tyler) has determined to surrender her virginity to him and out of jealousy, store-slut Gina (Zellweger) shags him. Perhaps this is supposed to be funny.

There is no point in enumerating the failings of this inane film which isn’t Howard The Duck bad but also isn't bad enough to be enjoyable. From the script up it is evidently a bargain bin effort to cash in on the teen market. What is surprising is that it has proven to have had a considerable DVD life apparently managing to gain some measure of cult cachet. Presumably the brief sight of Liv Tyler in her underwear is enough to satisfy some audiences.




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