The kids in Fast Times at Ridgemont High aren't much different from the teenagers in American Graffiti. They all hunger for sexual maturity and struggle to find the right channels for heir incredible energy. Only now instead of meeting at the local fast-food drive-in, they cluster in fancy malls to set up dates, purchase tickets for rock concerts and play Pac-Man video games.
Jennifer Jason Leigh (who portrayed the teenage anorexic in the ABC-TV movie "The Best Little Girl in the World") plays a freshman at Ridgemont High in Southern California who learns that sex for sex's sake is a low-cal way of relating to boys. Robert Romanus and Leigh's best friend Phoebe Cates both try to pass themselves off as hot stuff but turn out to be losers in love. Judge Reinhold as Leigh's older brother gives a fine performance as a happy-go-lucky young entrepreneur whose fortunes in the fast-food business take a tailspin when he rebels against bureaucratic rules and regulations. Sean Penn, the school's doper/surfer, provides the film with its comic brio as he marches to the beat of his own drummer. Penn's encounters with Ray Walston, a finicky history teacher, are hilarious.
In her directorial debut as a feature filmmaker, Amy Hekerling uses a rock steady soundtrack (Featuring selections by Stevie Nicks, Sammy Hagar, Billy Squire, Joe Walsh, Jimmy Buffett, Jackson Browne and others) to give the proceedings momentum and a dramatic undertow which is occasionally lacking in the fragmented storyline.