No pesky subplots about abortion interrupt the sight gags and one-liners as they did in Fast Times. Nor do suicide, depression, bulimia, or gang violence figure into the mix. Heckerling even mutes the drug use and casual sex, those staples of the genre. The times, they are a-changin' -- Fast Times at Ridgemont High glorified prodigious pot smoking and elevated an incorrigible doper (Spicoli) to the level of antihero; Clueless's token chronic user sees the error of his ways and ultimately donates his favorite bong to disaster relief. (More could be made of the differences between the two films if it weren't for the fact that Heckerling merely directed Fast Times at Ridgemont High; she didn't write it.)

You could quibble with Heckerling's decision to make such an innocuous movie about a potentially loaded subject, but (Marky Mark gags aside) Clueless strikes far more comic targets than it misses. Occasional gaps in story continuity and character development (especially Tai's change of heart) probably owe more to editing-room decisions to limit the film's running time than to Heckerling's oversight. And you'll see most of the plot developments coming way before the characters do. But it won't matter; you'll laugh hard enough to forgive the movie its shortcomings. This film may not be as ambitious as another current release, the notorious Kids, which received an NC-17 rating for its graphic and realistic depictions of rampant drug use and unsafe sex among teens. But don't underestimate the guiding intelligence behind Heckerling's film.

Clueless? As if.

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