I, a millennial, decided to embark on a quest — with some gentile prodding from our managing editor, Michael Hallisey — that would involve reviewing one of the quintessential films of the generation before me.
Predating my birth by only a few months, “Empire Records” came out in 1995 and has maintained cult status ever since for its highly replayable soundtrack, fun and unique characters and just all around carefree attitude. A classic feel-good ‘90s film — sure, there are some abruptly serious moments, because life as a teenager isn’t always easygoing, but any negative emotion seems to last less than 30 seconds — it follows a group of employees and their cool-guy boss over the course of 24 hours inside an eclectic record shop. Throughout the film, each character experiences the struggle of maintaining relationships while fighting inner battles, but the numerous energetic sing-a-longs and joking moments don’t let this film feel as serious as it could be.
“Empire” touts all the classic tropes of the decade: teens clad in crop tops and plaid, rocking music, a hip, older guy who hangs out with said teens and a square businessman who unsuccessfully tries to break up everyone’s fun. The characters in this film just exude non-mainstream coolness, even through their less than perfect moments. I can understand any ‘90s kid seeing this film and immediately wanting to skateboard down to their nearest record shop to see what rag-tag group might be there dancing along to The Meices and having a grand time (I kind of want to do that too now).
The film is certainly not without its cheesy moments, such as the scrappy kid who causes trouble just because he wants to be included, or the misunderstood, handsome boy who makes mistakes but is too confident for anyone to try to enforce the consequences. The plot is one big cliché, but it at least has one. From what I had heard prior, I assumed it was one of those films that played up on its quirky characters, witty banter and killer soundtrack, all to distract from the lack of storyline – not to say that’s a bad thing, some of the greatest films follow that same style (here’s looking at you, Mean Streets).
Maybe “Empire” seems predictable because it was the origin of a trend seen in other features, or perhaps it follows a pattern we’ve been seeing since the ‘80s from films like “The Breakfast Club.” Either way, it’s a classic story that maintains a certain uniqueness that never bores. And, that soundtrack is just so damn fun.
If you want to relive those memories break out your ripped jeans and miniskirts and attend Schenectady’s SummerNight 2016 on July 15, to fulfill your ‘90s dream and see the Gin Blossoms perform live on the GE Main Stage.