A kind of young-adult take on ‘90s slacker workplace comedies, Empire Records is a mess of a movie and not nearly as funny as it ought to be.
Its plot, about an indie record store attempting to stave off a corporate takeover, is really just a framework for its pretty young cast – including pre-Bridget Jones Renée Zellweger and Liv Tyler (the statuesque daughter of Aerosmith lead singer Steve Tyler) in her first major role – to work through various early-twentysomething problems over the course of 24 hours.
The plot moves in fits and starts, with sudden developments (such as one character’s blossoming drug addiction and another’s nymphomania) but the cast is too large for a 90-minute movie, and the film has to scramble to give each character a turn in the spotlight.
Even worse, director Allan Moyle wraps up the numerous storylines in the last five minutes with a groan-inducing pat ending. Remember those old movies where the kids put the show on in a barn and save the day? Well, the Oldest Living Plot Device shakes an elderly hoof in the big finale here, too, scuppering the film’s nose-diving cred for good.
What protects the film from total disaster is the cast, led by 17-year-old Liv Tyler as Harvard-bound Corey, the good girl virgin intent on bedding the washed-up teen idol Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield from Grease 2) doing a meet-and-greet at the store.
The $10 million film flopped in the cinemas, grossing just $293,879. The soundtrack album, though, cracked the top 100 Billboard charts and spawned two hit songs – Til I Hear It From You by The Gin Blossoms and A Girl Like You by Edwyn Collins.
Ethan Embry (as Ethan Randall)
Brendan Sexton III
James ‘Kimo’ Wills
Julia Deane (as Julia Howard)