Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Clueless.”
The Movie: “Clueless”
Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy
Director: Amy Heckerling
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Shallow, right and socially successful CHer is at the top of her Beverly Hills high school’s pecking scale. Seeing herself as a matchmaker, Cher first coaxes two teachers into dating each other.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81 percent
Brown: Do you have that movie that is burned into your brain from adolescence?
That movie for me is “Clueless.”
See, as the youngest of three kids, I often had to bite my tongue as my older sister watched this movie again and again and again on VHS. Why didn’t I go outside and do anything else? I dunno. Maybe I thought she’d take the Sega Genesis or something?
How exactly a movie starring the girl in Aerosmith music videos that wasn’t Steven Tyler’s daughter became a huge part of the late ‘90s pop culture zeitgeist is beyond me. But, that’s what “Clueless” was.
Plus, this was my introduction to Paul Rudd. Well, either this or that one Super Nintendo commercial he was in. Nineties kid and all.
Revisiting “Clueless” in 2022 as a 36-year-old man? Uhh, the main romance of the movie still exists in some corners of the internet that would get us demonetized. And we need those precious pennies, people!
Froemming, give us your first thoughts while I buy myself flowers and chocolate to make my crush jealous.
Froemming: Thanks for making me sit through Patient Zero of what would somehow normalize a very disturbing genre of pornography on the internet: step-sibling romance. Because life wasn’t already horrible enough.
Anyway, yeah. I saw this movie once back in the 1990s. Because mainly I had myself a little crush on Silverstone, which is weird because I normally do not care for blondes.
Now, watching it almost 30 years later, I realized something, Brown:
Yeah, the stink of the ’90s was at its peak with this movie. It was a dark and disturbing time when ska bands ruled MTV and radio and everyone dressed like a blind person picked out their clothes for them.
Brown, as I wonder how they managed to get Wallace Shawn in this, which should have been inconceivable, why don’t you get this horrific stroll down memory lane started.
Brown: We are introduced to our main character/narrator, Cher (Silverstone) and her Kardashian-before-the-Kardashians lifestyle. She’s a wealthy teenager in Beverly Hills who lives with her high-strung litigator father who’s glued to one of those ‘90s cell phones that absolutely gave him brain cancer later in life. Her mother died when Cher was young due to *checks notes* a failed liposuction? That’s… actually kind of grizzly.
We meet her friend Dionne, who is dating one of the doctors from “Scrubs” and is constantly referred to as “woman” because the ‘90s was a garbage decade.
Froemming: Hey! I think Stacey Dash might still think highly of that decade, since she once wanted to be living in an America that was allegedly great like TFG did!
Stacey Dash and Kennedy from MTV made the leap to FOX News. Thank God that Tabitha Soren is no longer alive to see this.
Apparently she is alive to see this. Well, I’ll be damned.
Brown: And Tabitha Soren apparently married the author of “Moneyball.” Screw you for letting baseball be ruined by calculator watch-type nerds, Michael Lewis!
… I’ll walk away from this tangent.
Cher is ultra popular, if not extremely shallow, which is basically what we all learned to hate in ‘80s teen movies. But she has a charisma and a kindheartedness that makes her easy to root for. It’s kind of a weird juxtaposition when you compare this to a “Revenge of the Nerds” type of movie.
Well, I’d find Cher more likable if she took the time to pronounce Haitians correctly instead of saying Haiti-ians.
Froemming: Well, her debate skills are on-par with today’s conservative movement in that it sounds wild, but does not make a lick of sense. And when she finds out she is getting a C in that class because, you know, she didn’t do any work, she becomes that trash person Zack Morris and hatches a scheme to raise her grade. Instead of doing the work.
I think just doing the work would have been less trouble.
Also, when we meet Dionne’s boyfriend, Cher says they watched that Ike and Tina Turner movie too much. Knowing a bit about that violent and abusive relationship, is Cher glossing over a violent domestic relationship involving her friends?
What the (REDACTED) kind of movie did you make me watch?
Brown: One with vapid monsters that apparently took relationship advice from a movie about Ike and Tina Turner?
Yeah, Cher’s debate teacher Mr. Hall is in his late 40s and is basically an angry troll of a man. So instead of taking one debate seriously, she manipulates Hall and another lonely teacher, Miss Geist, into falling in love. She gives Mr. Hall a thermos of Italian roast coffee that she took by accident and explaining how she did that, she drops a hard R right in front of her teacher who should reprimand her for doing so.
The ‘90s were terrible. The city of Portland should let the dream of the ‘90s die.
One of the people that calls Cher out on her manipulation is her former brother-in-law, Josh, played by Paul Rudd cosplaying as Eddie Vedder.
Froemming: Here is video of Josh’s response on grooming his underage ex-step siblings:
Brown: Josh is in college and still comes to his ex-dad’s house to raid the fridge and antagonize his sister? … Who does that? I get being friendly with these people, but to have carte blanche to come by anytime? That ended when the marriage ended, dude.
Plus, Josh is a total asshole for changing “Beavis and Butthead” to CNN.
Froemming: Look, Josh had a rough time a few years ago in Haddonfield, Ill.
These two certainly act like siblings, which makes the last third of this movie very creepy and gross. Yeah, Josh is in college and is all about saving the world and whatnot. Typical malarky for people of that age, though Paul Rudd never ages so I am not sure that works here. Anyway, he points out everything Cher does is for her own self-interests first. Which is true, even if it is coming from this creepy pervert who wants to bump uglies with a 16-year-old at the end of this movie.
Brown: Also, for a guy who’s riding his kind-of sister about being selfish and doing no good for the world, Josh is all talk. We never once see him do anything to advance the world. All we see him do is wax on about Shakespeare with some college girls and make a sandwich by slathering mayo on the meat instead of the bread. That’s some Dahmer shit, man!
Frankly, Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin do more for the world in “Biodome” than Josh ever does in “Clueless.”
For the record, the JOE-DOWN is VERY pro “Biodome.”
Froemming: Well, Josh might be committing a crime at the end of this movie with Cher. Granted, I do not know the age of consent in California, but I have a feeling Josh has read up on that quite a bit.
Brown: I feel like we’re devolving to Charlie Kelly trying to pull a “Good Will Hunting.”
Back to the movie.
After seeing her plan of manipulating her teachers’ love life into better grades, Cher wants to continue this high. And she gets her chance when a new girl arrives at school by the name of Tai (Murphy). Decked out in dyed red hair and flannel because this movie really likes taking shots at grunge…
Froemming: Cobain took the final shot at grunge.
That was my obligatory dig at Nirvana. Continue, Brown.
Tai’s favorite activities include, apparently, looking for drugs and drawing Marvin the Martian. That gains her the attention of local Jeff Spicoli cosplayer Travis (played by Breckin Meyer). But Cher’s not having that. According to Cher, the only acceptable high schoolers to date are the popular guys. So Cher tries setting Tai up with Elton, the leader of the popular guys.
What are Elton’s favorite activities? … Up until this point, molesting Cher any time she does something in class. Seriously… she gets back in her chair, there’s Elton grabbing her from behind and kissing on her.
THIS IS NOT HOW HIGH SCHOOL WORKS!
Froemming: I was never in class in high school, so I would never know if it was how it worked or not.
Also, I feel Cher and her friends took this song way too seriously.
Brown: Cher and Dionne also give Tai a makeover!
Froemming: Yup, to make Tai compatible for their friendship, all she has to do is fundamentally change everything about her. To the point that she can’t even date the guy she likes, wear the clothes she is comfortable in, exercise when she does not want to and basically be a Cher clone.
But hey, they get Tai’s hair dye washed out and put in clothes that somehow look worse than the ones she was originally wearing. And now she wants to set Tai up with that sexual predator, Elton.
Cher is not a good friend on paper, is she?
Well, Travis invites Tai, Cher and Dionne to a party. But they reject it because it is for stoners. Yeah, who in high school wants to go to parties where the drugs and alcohol would be?
There’s no hope with dope, chief.
Brown: It’s your typical teen movie party. Booze gets spilled on Cher’s expensive shoes. There’s pot. Elton puts his grubby hands on Cher and she still somehow thinks that he’s attracted to Tai?
When the party ends, Cher begrudgingly rides home with Elton, who declares his attraction to Cher by using his busy hands. He’s pretty much Artie Ziff.
Cher gets left outside a liquor store by Elton. Seconds later, Cher gets robbed at gunpoint and has to be picked up by Josh.
I guess that since Cher was threatened by gunpoint, I’ll let Josh’s kindness slide. But dude, you have no obligation to this family.
Froemming: Well, considering they are housing him and feeding him and he is not even related, he actually does have an obligation to this family. The hell are you talking about?
Anyway, on the car ride Josh’s lady friend and he are having one of those boring college people debates that nobody will ever remember. And Cher corrects the lady friend on a bit of old Bill Shakespear and gets a laugh from Josh. Creepy, perverted Josh.
Brown: Hey, let’s not go into our strangest PornHub searches quite yet, because a different guy enters the fold for Cher.
Despite saying that “searching for a boy in high school is as useless as searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie” (which is actually a good line), Cher is smitten when another new student, Christian, comes to debate class.
Like Travis being a cosplayer for Spicoli, Christian is cosplaying as Luke Perry from “Beverly Hills 90210.” Which makes sense that Cher is into him because she’s a virgin and, as Dionne puts it, she’s saving herself for Luke Perry.
… I think Luke Perry would have better taste in a first date than taking a girl to a Mighty Mighty Bosstones concert, but here we are.
Froemming: Look, if I walk into a party or a bar and the (REDACTED) Mighty Mighty Bosstones are playing on a stereo, I am walking away. If I go to a party or a bar and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones are actually there playing live music, there is a good chance I turn around and leap into oncoming traffic.
Brown: I could see that. That’s the impression I get from you, Froemming.
Froemming: Gross. That’s a gross way to live.
Anyway, at the party we see Christian hitting it off with men and ignoring women. This is the film’s not-so-subtle hint that Christian is a *gasps and clutches pearls in 1990s prejudice* homosexual!
I am truly glad this sort of shit has gotten better in the past two-plus decades in movies.
Brown: I thought you were going to say you’re glad your time in the late ‘90s was covered in a haze of…
Yeah… Cher tries seducing Christian in another date, only for him to leave after picking up what Cher was trying to put down.
Murray, who I remind you has a defining characteristic of calling Dionne “Woman,” spells out to Cher that Christian’s gay. He does this while giving Dionne a driving lesson. If you needed a reminder or just willfully ignore this fact like Josh, these main characters aren’t even old enough to drive!
During an argument, Dionne accidentally gets on the freeway. Going back to my sister constantly watching this movie when I was younger, I think this movie scared me into avoiding freeway driving for as long as I could. Thanks for scarring me with your movie, Melissa!
This brush with death apparently leads to Dionne losing her virginity to Murray? Because now, the turn tables on Cher and she’s no longer the popular kid at school.
Froemming: That and Christian saving Tai at the mall from being dumped from a ledge. So both of Cher’s friends have had a brush with death and the tales to tell of them. And all Cher has is the story of that time a bum pulled a gun on her in a liquor store parking lot after she was abandoned by Elton after he tried putting the moves on her against her will.
So Cher is having a crisis of sorts not being the top dog of her social life. What does she do?
She decides to be someone who helps other people without any personal agenda besides the ego boost it will bring, and potential bragging rights.
And one day, she comes home to find Tai in her backyard with Josh (someone please call the cops on him) and we find out she is there to burn all her memories of that one night she kinda liked that Elton fella.
Why? Well, because she has a crush on Cher’s half-brother. Which this movie goes out of its way A LOT to establish that they are ex-step siblings. This is jarring to Cher, not because Josh is older and that might be an actual crime in the state of California, but because she thinks Josh is some dork.
And then we get this inner monologue from her about how she actually….likes her ex-step-brother.
Brown: Whoa now, let’s not forget the part where Tai is critical of Cher’s opinion and tells her that she’s just a virgin who can’t drive. Which… damn.
Froemming: Show me the lie in that statement, Brown. #TeamBrittanyMurphy
Brown: Like Walter Sobchak, she’s not wrong. She’s just an asshole.
But yeah, Cher walks along Rodeo Drive, she comes to her gross realization that, honestly, derails the last 20 minutes of this movie.
Froemming: But makes the best 20 minutes of your PornHub queue?
Brown: Also, he’s (at least) 18 and she’s 16. So we have a statutory rape situation here, too.
Teen classic movie, folks.
Froemming: Let’s be honest, it is (REDACTED) jarring this turn. Why not make Rudd not associated with the family and just some dude at school who is nerdy?
Brown: OR! This movie is influenced by Jane Austen’s “Emma.” Josh’s character is akin to Mr. Knightley, who was the brother of Emma’s sister’s husband. Why not do that?! Plagiarism aside, that is sooooo much less awkward.
Froemming: Books? YOU MADE ME WATCH A NERD MOVIE?!
This…this just makes me feel gross for the rest of the movie. She is suddenly all awkward around him and watching the news, which as we know from “Community” is what people do when a party is going south.
Also, kinda weird Dionne just vanishes for large swaths of this movie. She is like Duke in “M*A*S*H” as soon as Trapper John shows up.
Froemming: Not to be the “actually” guy, but actually Jon Voight has won an Academy Award. He also once bit Kramer on “Seinfeld.”
The other two in that list have done nothing of note, except for one having their cellphone taken away while in a Hardee’s drive-thru, which is the most hilarious headlines I have seen all year.
Brown: Anyways, this movie… just kind of ends. Mr. Hall and Miss Geist get married. Josh and Cher are an illegal item.
Froemming: Just gonna skip right past that fear boner you got watching them make out?
Brown: Think after that kiss, Josh looked at Cher and said this:
Anyways, between this and “Cruel Intentions,” a fetish was born for many a lonely, horny person.
Froemming, let’s get to recommendations so I can never feel these feelings again.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: This movie is entertaining and the script is well written, but I kinda can’t get over how gross the Cher/Josh relationship is. So, pass.
Froemming: No. No I would not. I was hoping for a little nostalgia to save this going in, but I completely forgot about the creepy romance at the end. That derailed any amusement I had up to that point.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN:
Kicking off Halloween Month with: