Romy and Michele's High School Reunion: Yes, It IS One of the Best Comedies of the '90s

12/03/2009 01:23 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Last night, I told a friend of mine that I love Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, and she reacted with surprise: "So you like chick flicks?" I was taken aback, because I love it so much that I don't even think of it that way, but then I realized: yes, it's a movie about two ditzy best friends (one blonde, the other dyed blonde) who are obsessed with the movie Pretty Woman (alternately making fun of Julia Roberts and crying a tear of joy when she's finally allowed to shop on Rodeo Drive) and designing their own clothing fashions, which sounds like a chick flick. So I admit it: yes, if a chick flick is good enough, then, hell yes, I'll like it.

(While we're at it, here are a few other movies that I love unrepentantly: Sliding Doors, rating: 89; Bend it Like Beckham, rating: 80; and Janeane Garofalo's adorable The MatchMaker, rating: 75. It takes me a little longer to admit my guilty love for Addicted to Love, rating: 65, and, yes, Chasing Liberty, rating: 67.)

That said, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion is the best possible movie that it could possibly be. Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow have wonderful chemistry, from their opening scene watching Pretty Woman to their final line: "Let's fold scarves!" The supporting cast includes Camryn Manheim, Alan Cumming, and Janeane Garofalo, all of whom turn in good performances, most of all the acerbic, foul-mouthed Garofalo. It's just an hour and a half long, and that's the right length: there's a short establishing sequence in LA, a series of flashbacks to high school, a brief road trip to the reunion itself, an extended dream sequence about what awaits inside, and then a triumphant finale, including a bizarrely elegant three-way dance between Kudrow, Sorvino, and Cumming.

These days, Lisa Kudrow is sort of a historical footnote, best remembered for playing a character who was basically a female Kramer, a '90s sitcom character who got a new personality quirk every time the writers needed a big gag to pad out a 22-minute episode. Kudrow even made an HBO series, "The Comeback," about being an aging comic actress several years removed from her biggest success. But back in the late '90s, her comic timing -- honed in the legendary Groundlings comedy troupe -- was flawless, and never better than as Michele Weinberger. Similarly, Mira Sorvino, an accomplished character actor with a lot of the chops but much better looks than her father Paul, won an Oscar for Mighty Aphrodite, but it's likely that she'll be better remembered as Romy White.

Directed by David Mirkin, a longtime producer and director of The Simpsons, the movie is colorful and stylized. Most of the punchlines come from the two main characters, who are clueless, oblivious, and completely happy. "Oh my God, I hate throwing up in public." "Me too!" The movie shares a costume designer with Clueless (rating: 85), and the two movies have a similarly humane treatment of their ditzy heroines, who are simultaneously milked for laughs while simultaneously developed for pathos. We feel the same way about Romy and Michele as they feel about Pretty Woman: we laugh at them, but ultimately sympathize with them. The movie is pure candy: all surface gags, '80s songs, ridiculous costumes, a swearing Janeane Garofalo, and a happy ending. What more could you want?

Rating: 88

Crossposted at Remingtonstein.