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  Empire Records Musically Inclined
Year: 1995
Director: Allan Moyle
Stars: Anthony LaPaglia, Maxwell Caulfield, Debi Mazar, Rory Cochrane, Johnny Whitworth, Robin Tunney, Renée Zellweger, Ethan Embry, Coyote Shivers, Brendan Sexton III, Liv Tyler, James 'Kimo' Wills, Ben Bode
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: At the music store Empire Records, one of the employees, Lucas (Rory Cochrane), has been given an important task to fulfil: he must close the place for the night. This doesn't only involve locking up, as he has to count up the day's takings, but when he is almost finished there's someone outside trying to get in. He tries to explain to her that they are closed, but she won't take no for an answer and is feels pressured to let her in, but it's what happens later that really gets Lucas into trouble. On idly opening a desk, he notices some paperwork that makes him realise the store is about to be bought over by a corporation - what can he do to stop this?

How about riding his motorcycle to Atlantic City with over nine thousand dollars of the day's takings and placing a bet at a casino? Sounds foolhardy? Well, he actually wins, doubling the amount of cash, which would be great except that he is daft enough to bet it all again and promptly loses the lot. In quite a few other films this would be the beginning of an edgy thriller, but here you can rest assured that nothing is going to happen that's so bad that it cannot be resolved within the twenty-four hours it takes the story to last. Although Empire Records was not much of a hit when it was initially released, mostly because it was seen to be as corporate as the fictional company in the film, it did strike a chord with some.

The result of that was that against the odds it turned into a cult movie, to the extent that a special "Fan Edition" was put out for its appreciators to have even more of the movie to watch, and to all intents and purposes they lapped it up. It still didn't change the fact that the emotions the characters went through, from their highs to their lows, were achingly contrived, but you could acknowledge this while still recognising that perhaps this was the kind of easy to watch entertainment that many moviegoers wanted to see. Besides, there was the attraction of seeing a bunch of talents making their mark in early roles.

Naturally, there were some cast members who went onto bigger success than others, yet you can pretty much identify every star in a substantial role here. So it could be nostalgia played a part with this ensemble cast, the novelty of seeing them before the world knew their names, well, some of them at any rate. The plot is not lacking in incident, and screenwriter Carol Heikkinen had worked in a record store having drawn on her experiences to concoct her script, although it's hard to credit that all this stuff would have occured in one day, including as it does shoplifting, a suicide attempt, a personal appearance by a pop star (Maxwell Caulfield) and the problem of the big, bad business trying their takeover bid.

And that's not all, as there is romance to be taken into account as well with AJ (Johnny Whitworth) deciding this is the day to admit his love for fellow employee Corey (Liv Tyler), although she plans to lose her virginity to Caulfield's vain celebrity when he shows up. Not only that, but they all have to put songs on in the store for them to dance around to energetically, which happens, ooh, at least fifteen billion times in the space of the ninety minute running time and can begin to grate on the nerves of the less hardy viewer, especially as half of them end with that comedy "needle scratching over the vinyl" sound effect. Empire Records pretends to be deep by inflicting emotional anguish on its characters, but it's all too calculated for its own good, leaving the impression of a heart in the right place, yet little to truly feed the soul. But maybe the fact that nothing really terrible is going to happen is part of the appeal.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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