Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Courtney Love, Ben Affleck, Christina Ricci, Gaby
Hoffman, Martha Plimpton, Jay Mohr, Dave Chappelle, Kate Hudson, Janeane Garofalo, Casey
Director: Risa Bramon Garcia
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 1.77:1, 16x9 Enhanced
Length: 101 Minutes
Release Date: August 31, 1999
I'm not really sure why this movie is named 200 Cigarettes. There
is a good deal of smoking in the film, but not really any more or less compared to other
films of this type. I didn't take the
time to count, but I'm pretty sure the total tally fell short of 200. The only other explanation I can think of is that
200 is the number of cigarettes in a carton, which happens to be what one of the
characters receives as a birthday present.
But on to the movie. 200 Cigarettes seems to have two goals in mind. First, it wants to be a movie in the same vein as
the great ensemble youth comedies, like American
Graffiti or Dazed and Confused. In other words, a film with a large number of
characters who interact with each other at various points, and no real plot to speak of. The second goal appears to be the resurrection of
the so-called brat pack' films of the 80's.
In fact, for no other reason I can think of, the movie takes place on New
Year's Eve of 1981. And, of course, the
cast is made up of some of the hottest younger actors working today. I could sense a bit of homage to About Last Night and St. Elmo's Fire in the workings.
Does it work? Overall,
not really, but it does have its moments here and there in the margins. I think the filmmakers failed to realize that
it's okay to be sans plot as long as there's a point, and vice versa. To have no plot and no point, as this movie does,
is bit much to indulge in and expect to hold an audience.
It's a little too obvious that the screenwriter and director really had
nothing to say, leaving their story to the same old tired clichés about love and sex. There's not much fertile ground left in those
subjects, and here, they simply don't even try to come up with something fresh.
Another problem is that all of the characters are completely flat. Truthfully, I didn't realize this until
reflecting back the next day. Some were more
obviously shallow, but a few, thanks entirely to good acting, made me believe at the time
that there was more going on. I'll list
them, with great happiness: Courtney Love,
Christina Ricci, Kate Hudson, Martha Plimpton. Love
proves that her magnificent debut in The People vs.
Larry Flynt was no fluke, and Ricci is hysterical as a New York socialite on the wrong
side of the tracks trying to find a certain party. Plimpton
is a joy as the embodiment of the age old question, What if I threw a party and
nobody came? And Kate Hudson is a real
find with a bright future. She may be Goldie
Hawn's daughter, but she proves can stand on her own as a comic actress, and all of
her scenes were delightful. Apart from that,
despite some talent, the other cast members never came across. Ben Affleck and Janeane Garofalo have way too little to work with to
shine the way they normally do.
But the film does have some entertainment value, and when I and my
friends gathered around the DVD player to watch the movie, we did have a good time. This is one of the best soundtracks I've
hearda great deal better than many other 80's flashback movies of recent years,
and the music is almost non stop. (Again,
possibly drawing from the structure of Graffiti). And, despite the shallowness of the script, there
were some genuinely big laughs to be had. The
best one involved the movie Love Story
will say no more.
This disc is definitely a triumph for Paramount in terms of quality. For starters, this is one of the most colorful movies I've seen of late, as every locale is decorated for New Year's with characters dressed accordingly. The colors are rich and beautiful, and well defined and contained. The image is also free of artifacts and grain, and sharp and crisp throughout, with great detail.
The 5.1 soundtrack makes only sparing use of the rears for
effect...in fact, the multiple channels are mostly good for the music. Still,
that's quite a compliment with a film such as this one. Those old tunes sound loud,
clean and clear, add an extra dimension to the dynamics of the audio, and make this an
Features (zero stars)
200 Cigarettes is the 90's version of an 80's brat pack' film, and ironically, like its older counterparts, proves that having a talented cast of big names doesn't necessarily equate to a great movie. It has some genuine laughs, and is worth a viewing at least for that, as well as the performances of Love, Ricci, Hudson and Plimpton, and the terrifically colorful and excellent transfer on this DVD.