Judge Mike Rubino's high school experience was nothing like this.
Our reviews of Dazed and Confused (Blu-ray) Criterion Collection (published October 25th, 2011), Dazed And Confused: Criterion Collection (published May 29th, 2006), and Ultimate Party Collection: Dazed And Confused / Fast Times At Ridgemont High (published December 7th, 2004) are also available.
"All right, all right, all right."—Wooderson
I know what it's like to grow up in the '70s. Despite the fact that, as I write this, I'm only 26 years old, I have a well-rounded and realistic understanding of life from about 1974 to 1983 due to the fact that just about every filmmaker that grew up during that time has made a movie or TV show about it. But films like Dazed and Confused aren't time capsules. They're relatable. They're universal. Richard Linklater's classic film about kids in Texas getting high, drinking beer, and beating the crap out of freshmen is, in some ways, relevant even if you grew up in the '90s and didn't do any of that stuff.
Dazed and Confused chronicles the last day of school for a swath of kids in a suburban Texas town in 1976. The juniors, now officially seniors, are eager to assert their harsh authority over the incoming freshmen. Chalk it up to boredom, complacent teachers, and bad parenting (because, really, there's only like three parents in the entire movie). The town is anarchic, or at it least feels that way from the teens' perspective, as kids ride around in pickup trucks smashing mailboxes, beating middle schoolers, and drinking. It's a world of newfound freedom for star-quarterback Randall Floyd (Jason London, The Rage: Carrie 2) and his jock pals, and a terrifying life for the impressionable freshman, Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins, Waking Life). This dichotomy of sympathetic hunter and wide-eyed hunted brings them together almost instantly.
That, for me, is where the film rings most true. Linklater perfectly captures the feeling of admiration and attraction a freshman can have for his "cooler" upperclassmen. They may not actually deserve this attention, but it's a natural thing. It's a bridge to the whole theme of this massive ensemble film: accepting change. Kids growing up and entering new phases of maturity must choose to either embrace it or rebel against it (or just ignore it, if you're Matthew McConaughey's character Wooderson).
If you've never seen Dazed and Confused, you probably should. It's a classic teen "talky" that actually manages the philosophizing so often found in '90s indie flicks without getting bogged down by it (I'm looking at you, Mallrats). There's a fluidity to the movie and its pacing that's similar to Linklater's early film, Slacker, but with a little more purpose. From its tone—thanks largely to a killer soundtrack featuring Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, and KISS—to its varied sense of humor and self-awareness, the film deserves the accolades it's received over the years.
Dazed isn't perfect, of course. The ensemble cast, which features young stars like Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Parker Posey, and Adam Goldberg, has its share of weak links. Most troubling is the awkward acting skills of the films' younger stars, including Wiggins. I understand they're just kids, but Wiggins's Mitch is one of the biggest roles in the film. It's through his lens that we experience the awe of becoming a freshman (his ninth-grade colleagues are generally undeveloped), so subtler moments in the film wind up falling flat. When you've got a young ensemble of this size, it seems almost impossible not to have a few stragglers.
This is the first time Dazed has been released on Blu-ray, after a handful of varying standard def installments. The 1080p scan is good, with consistent coloration and just the right amount of grain. It's not going to blow your mind or anything, but it is certainly a serviceable transfer. The same goes for the DTS-HD Master Audio. The beefiest part of the sound mix is, rightly, the classic rock soundtrack. The music is so important to this film that it's the focus of the only real Blu-ray exclusive supplement: you can watch the film and identify the music played…so you can purchase it from iTunes. Yeah, isn't that thrilling?
Therein lies the problem with the Dazed and Confused Blu-ray release. It's essentially a barebones treatment, with some deleted scenes and vintage drug PSAs from the "Party Edition" DVD release in 2004. Missing are all of the supplements, documentaries, and commentaries from the Criterion release. So essentially, unless you are too lazy to look up the soundtrack yourself and want your TV to do it for you, there's no compelling reason to go HD.
If you have yet to see Linklater's '70s high school opus, you might as well check out this Blu-ray release for the high def transfer and loud rock and roll music. Otherwise, seek out that superior Criterion version on DVD, or wait until 25 Oct 2011 when it receives the Blu-ray treatment.
Guilty of being a lame Blu-ray, man.
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