Combustible Celluloid
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With: Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn, Swoosie Kurtz, Joe Don Baker, Renee Zellweger, John Mahoney, Andy Dick, Keith David
Written by: Helen Childress
Directed by: Ben Stiller
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language, drug content and sensuality
Running Time: 99
Date: 02/18/1994

Reality Bites (1994)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Gen X-Men

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This was the first -- and only -- official Generation X comedy, containing plenty of references to Schoolhouse Rock, MTV, classic TV shows and commercials and 80s music. Unfortunately, the characters are nothing more than the standard-issue types, looking to overcome the same old obstacles.

Four friends have just graduated from college. Valedictorian Winona Ryder quits her job at a stupid daytime talk show but can't find a new job. Romantically she jumps back and forth between yuppie Ben Stiller and slacker Ethan Hawke, while her best friends Janeane Garofalo and Steve Zahn provide comic relief and go through their own crises -- including a brush with HIV.

Ben Stiller made his directorial debut here with very little in the way of style or personality. Gen Xers looking for a good time probably found themselves cheated at having been pigeonholed like this and watching the film's fun, ironic beginning give way to goopy pathos. In 1994, any self-respecting twenty-something would much sooner be seen attending Ed Wood or Pulp Fiction than this.

Hawke directed the video for Lisa Loeb's theme song "Stay," and went on to star in a much more potent twenty-something film the following year, Before Sunrise.

Universal has released the film in a new 10th anniversary DVD that includes deleted scenes, an introduction by Stiller, a commentary track by Stiller and screenwriter Helen Childress, a retrospective, "The Stars Look Back on the Making of the Movie, What It Was Like to Work Together and How Much Fun They Had," the Lisa Loeb video and the making of the video, and the trailer.

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