Throwback Thursday Review: “Empire Records” (1995)





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Posted July 14, 2016 by

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Come with me, friends! Let us travel back to a time when bands like Better Than Ezra were cool, movie and record stores where the number one hangouts (and most coveted workplaces) for teenagers, and the only thing you needed for a hit movie was some pretty, up-and-coming actors and a kick ass soundtrack. That time was the mid 90s, and those up-and-coming actors where Liv Tyler, Rory Cochrane, and Renee Zellweger. The only problem was that “Empire Records” was not a hit movie… at least not at first.

“What?”, you ask. “I LOVED that movie! I still celebrate Rex Mannning day every April 8th! How was it not a hit movie?”, you wonder. Well, for starters, “Empire” suffered from a few glaring imperfections. The first of these was that, even with all of the young talent on screen, the script is a mess. While I love listening to Lucas (Cochrane) quote The Doors and spout out clever but odd sayings like “What’s with today, today?”, most of the characters really have little or nothing to say. That is because there is really no development of those characters. We are basically just given a handful of 90s, teenage stereotypes who are each dealing with their own little issues and constantly interrupting each other by blasting whatever music they are in the mood for.empire records 1

Then there’s the story… The central tale is of the evil, fictional, corporate chain “Music Town” trying to buy out “Empire Records”, and Lucas taking matters into his own hands by taking the nightly deposit to Atlantic City to try to win enough money to help manager Joe (LaPaglia) buy it instead. Then there is Deb (Tunney) showing up to work with bandages on her wrist, worrying co-employee A.J. (Whitworth) who is secretly in love with Corey (Tyler) who is trying to “Give herself” to Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield) who is more interested in playing doctor with Gina (Zellweger). Oh… and there is also a shoplifter (Brendan Sexton III) who gets caught and handed over to the cops and then comes back with a gun. Plus you’ve got Rex Manning Day going on in the middle of it all! Got all that? Yeah… the story is a mess.

With all of that said, I still really like this movie. It just reminds me of high school, and hanging with my friends at our local record store. The music, however bad, takes me back to my youth. Plus this movie has so much spirit! Despite all of it’s flaws, it tries REALLY hard to win over it’s audience with an effective quirkiness. From Mark’s (Embry) wide-eyed goofiness to Gina prancing around in nothing but her panties and a “Music Town” apron, there are things to like here. Those charming qualities and it’s cast of future Hollywood stars are what make “Empire” the cult favorite that it has become. Plenty of people, for better or worse, love this 90s teen flick… and I am one of them. Damn the man!




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