In 1982 I was 9 years old. Way too young to truly understand the meanderings of stoned high school kids. It would be many years before I understood lines such as “when a guy has an orgasm how much comes out?” and “all I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.” I mean, I knew what waves were.
I don’t need to go into the history or backstory of this movie because if you haven’t seen it already, well, then you must hate America and probably don’t support the troops! Let me go out on a limb here and say, at least in my humble opinion, this is the single best high school comedy of all time. I said it: all time. There are plenty of other worthy comedies about teenage escapades but none is as close to my heart as Fast Times is. I have seen the movie a thousand times if I have seen it once. I think Sean Penn should get a retroactive Oscar for his portrayal of stoner/surfer Jeff Spicoli (“doesn’t this stuff give you brain damage?”).
Long before Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Superbad, or any other modern take on the stoner adventure, Fast Times helped to launch the careers (or semi-careers) of numerous now-famous actors. Let’s review just a few of the actors from the movie that went on to have some success:
- Sean Penn (Academy Award Winner)
- Nick Cage (Academy Award Winner)
- Eric Stoltz (Golden Globe Winner)
- Jennifer Jason Leigh
- Judge Reinhold
- Phoebe Cates
- Anthony Edwards
- Forest Whitaker (Academy Award Winner)
I bet that Sean Penn’s Spicoli character was responsible for at least a 75% increase in the sale of checkered vans in 1982. I know I went out and purchased a pair. Mike Damone made me want to scalp tickets, work at 7-11, and own a piano-printed scarf. Phoebe Cates made me want to, well, you know. “Hi Brad. You know how cute I always thought you were” might be the greatest nude scene of all time (at least for a 10 year old boy).
And that soundtrack! I will never hear Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby” and not want to make out in a baseball dugout. I can’t hear Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and not think of this movie. Shit, I just looked it up and realized I even like a Jimmy Buffet song (“I Don’t Know-Spicoli’s Theme”). I love this movie so much that I just admitted, in writing, that I enjoy something Jimmy Buffet sang. That alone should tell you how much I love this movie.
So there have been hundreds of great high school movies since, and I am sure Sean Penn will look back on this movie with some level of embarrassment, but if I ever get to meet Sean Penn I wouldn’t ask, “What was it like working with Jack Nicholson” or “Why did you kill your friend at the end of Mystic River?” I would undoubtedly say, “Hey bud, let’s party!”