Maybe it’s because I didn’t see it when it first came out nor in the immediate years following its release, but I have no clue why “Empire Records” is so revered. The screenplay is squeaky-clean corporate gobbledygook masquerading as edginess, the direction is negligible, and none of the actors seem to be acting in the same movie. It’s also peculiar that, for a movie that’s ostensibly for and about music lovers, it seems to have no interest in either music or music fans: Other than as a means to irritate each other, the characters don’t seem particularly interested or moved by music, which is sort of like making “Inception” without discussing the psychology of dreams. As far as the performers go, only Renee Zellweger seems to be doing any acting here, while Ethan Embry (credited as Ethan Randall) delivers a sloppy, distracting performance that’s all squeaky noises and unrestrained manic energy. It’s like the filmmakers set out to make a cross between “The Breakfast Club” and “Reality Bites” but didn’t bother understanding what made either film effective. It’s the movie equivalent of someone’s “you had to be there” story.
Rating: ★★ (out of 5)