Blu-ray Review: The Wild Life | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, October 21st, 2021  

The Wild Life

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Apr 23, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

It’s Southern California, the early 1980s. The responsible Bill Conrad (Eric Stoltz) has saved up all the cash he’s earned since graduation and signed the lease on a swank apartment, eager to move out of his parents’ house and get started on adult living. This may or may not include his ex-girlfriend, Anita (Lea Thompson), whom he still has feelings for but, you know, it would be too embarrassing to be seen picking her up at his old high school. Meanwhile, she’s moved on and hooked up with a married cop who stops in at the donut shop where she works the late shift. His little brother, Jim (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), spends his evenings raising hell and visiting with a brain-fried Vietnam vet (Randy Quaid). No one’s in a hurry to get anywhere.

That is, except for Bill’s best bud, Tom (Chris Penn), who works with him at the local bowling alley and desperately wants to marry his on-again, off-again punker girlfriend, Eileen (Jenny Wright). First, though, he needs to get his own place – fortunately, Bill’s new digs has a spare room. Next, he needs to party—and throw the biggest rager their friends have ever seen.

The Wild Life is the spiritual sequel to Fast Times at Ridgemont High, once again written by Cameron Crowe, and was released two years later. It’s not as timeless as the adolescent classic it followed, but it’s pretty damn good – much better, at least, than probably three quarters of the other teen movies that came in that era. The movie is best when it meanders, capturing that brief period where young people have lots of freedom and some expendable cash, but few responsibilities. Stoltz and Thompson are a charming pair, but Penn—playing a knock-off version of his brother’s Spiccoli—grates after a while. The most interesting characters may be the ones who get less screen time: Bill’s strangely war-obsessed little brother, Jim, and Quaid’s pitiful addict, who only has a few lines but leaves a lingering, horrifying impression.

Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray looks really nice, and sounds great: unsurprisingly, Crowe’s film has a good soundtrack, with instrumentals from none other than Eddie Van Halen. The disc includes an informative commentary from author/DJ Ian Christie and the late Mike McPadden, whose final book, Teen Movie Hell, is an essential reference volume for anyone who enjoys movies like this one. There is also an on-camera interview with Ilan Mitchell-Smith, who talks about his brief time as a teen star in the 1980s and why he walked away from the film industry.


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