Ever wonder how the soundtrack to a movie could be better than the movie itself or make that film a cult classic? This 90s film, revolving around a day at a local record store, will be known for its soundtrack. However, the movie itself is actually quite fun.
Empire Records is a small-town record store in New Jersey. When Lucas, one of the store’s employees, is tasked with counting the money for the day so he can deliver it to the bank, he becomes shocked when he sees a proposed plan for a chain, MusicTown, to take over Empire. Determined to make sure it doesn’t happen, Lucas heads to Atlantic City to gamble in hopes to get enough money to save Empire. Sadly, Lucas loses all the money and now, he’s in a predicament.
The next day, Joe, Empire’s manager, learns of Lucas’ blunder and is very mad as he had planned to use the money to become a partner in the store. At the same time, employee AJ decides this is the day he’s going to reveal his feelings for fellow employee Corey. On top of that, today is the day that famous celebrity Rex Manning is coming to the store to sign autographs for fans. Corey has a major crush on Rex and fellow employee Debbie is trying to cope with her own issues. When the group learns of MusicTown’s proposed takeover, they must get over their own issues to band together to save Empire.
This film can be described as a 90’s version of The Breakfast Club only replace high school with a record store with a focus on a group of young adults over the course of a day. Perhaps it was John Hughes who could have influenced Carol Heikkinen’s screenplay as the film has the feel of a 90’s teen movie if Hughes were to tackle it. It would be the equivalent of a 90’s Hughes film more if his “Brat Pack” were in their late teens to early 20s and for some reason, it works out quite well here.
The reason why this film is underrated? The cast of characters is exciting. While there are veterans such as Anthony LaPaglia as store manager Joe, Maxwell Caulfield as Rex Manning, and Debi Mazar as Rex’s manager turned Joe’s potential love interest Jane, the film shines through its young cast of employees. Rory Cochrane makes quite an impact as the troublesome Lucas, whose actions trigger the film’s events and on top of that, he does come up with one of the greatest movie lines to describe corporate takeovers: “Damn the man”.
What’s great is that many of the characters, at one point or another, show what makes them different from their fellow employees. For instance, Renee Zellweger’s Gina is the promiscuous member of the group. Ethan Embry’s Mark is the goofball of the group. Johnny Whitworth’s AJ is the level headed aspiring art student who is ready to tell Liv Tyler’s Corey his feelings. Perhaps if there is anyone who is the “glue” of the group, it has to be AJ himself. As for Corey herself, she has some issues that are revealed at a very pivotal point in the film. Robin Tunney’s Debbie is the social outcast whose personal issues force her to have her shave her head in her introductory scene.
The soundtrack as mentioned, is exciting. From the iconic “Til I Hear it from You” by the Gin Blossoms to co-star Coyote Shivers’ “Sugarhigh”, it is James “Kimo” Wills’ Eddie who couldn’t have said it better. This music is the glue of the world or in this case, the movie. Because this is a soundtrack that fits perfect with the tone of the film as a whole.
So in conclusion, Empire Records is a totally underrated 90s film that has the feel of a John Hughes teen classic if it were to be done in the 90s. The cast is excellent and the soundtrack is excellent as well.
WFG RATING: A-
Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Regency Entertainment production in association with Monarchy Enterprises B.V. Director: Allan Moyle. Producers: Arnon Milchan, Tony Ludwig, Michael G. Nathanson, and Alan Riche. Writer: Carol Heikkinen. Cinematgraphy: Walt Lloyd. Editing: Michael Chandler.
Cast: Anthony LaPaglia, Maxwell Caulfield, Debi Mazar, Rory Cochrane, Johnny Whitworth, Ethan Embry, Robin Tunney, Renee Zellweger, Brandon Sexton III, Coyote Shivers, Liv Tyler, James “Kimo” Wills.