I have an unhealthy obsession with the relatedness of the late ’90s and early 2000s movies.
The films basically had the same group of 10 actors always playing the main characters, only alternating whether they were playing siblings or lovers. Think Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe in both “Cruel Intentions” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” Although, to be fair, the siblings/lovers line was infamously blurred in the former.
The only modern equivalent we have to this phenomenon is the four-year period from 2013 to 2016 when Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller and Ansel Elgort were in five movies together — “Divergent” and “The Fault in Our Stars,” to name a few. Though funo these repeated appearances didn’t last longer than that short stint. Shailene has since scampered off to work at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on “Big Little Lies,” and Ansel and Miles are not busy after both losing roles to Austin Butler for the upcoming Elvis biopic.
Looking for more ’90s sources with this same interconnectedness, this summer I perused my streaming apps for any Brat Pack movies I missed. Brat Pack, of course, refers to the nickname given to a group of young actors who frequently appeared together in teen-oriented films in the nineties. I found three: “Wild Things” and “Urban Legend,” as well as another from the same era, “Double Jeopardy.” I loved all of them, to be honest, as they all served up both a certain ’90s-tinged feeling of nostalgia and genuine entertainment in their campy storylines.
“Wild Things” may be known as the ’90s film with the scandalous pool scene, but in 2020, it doesn’t come across as that shocking — we’ve all lived through the “Fifty Shades” trilogy. “Wild Things” is set in steamy south Florida and delivers an underrated cheap thrills adventure ride. Multiple twists actually surprised me, and the overt, poolside- and bathing suit-driven sexuality of every scene is cheesy yet entertaining as ever. When combined with the enduring humidity, loungy music score and Florida tans, however, it works. New Age Brat Pack member Neve Campbell stars alongside Denise Richards — before her marriage to Charlie Sheen — and Kevin Bacon and Matt Dillon. You can catch it on streaming platform Crackle, which is free until media conglomerate Apple TV potentially gobbles it up next year.
“Urban Legend” was released in the slasher revival era of the late ’90s that began with “Scream,” starring, yet again, Neve Campbell. “Scream 2” has even more New Age Brat Pack credits with Gellar and Rebecca Gayheart having minor roles. Rebecca Gayheart also stars in “Urban Legend” alongside Tara Reid of “Sharknado” fame and Joshua Jackson, both of whom acted in “Cruel Intentions” — see what I mean about the interconnected web these stars wove!
“Urban Legend” is legitimately scary. I watched it at night and got pretty freaked out by the urban legends slowly starting to come true and picking off the cliche college students at a gorgeously gothic New England university. While formulaic, the chases around the college are captivating. The ludicrous final twist ruins some of the allure, but prepare to feel nostalgic for a time when college students would actually gather in a coffee house sans laptops and iPhones to debate urban legends — ah, simpler times. Though the majority of theaters across the country are closed, films today could benefit from employing a familiar cast of actors. I could picture Zendaya, Tom Holland and Hunter Schaefer in some of them now. In the meantime, though, you can currently stream “Urban Legend” on Hulu.
Finally, “Double Jeopardy,” a severely underrated thriller starring the resilient Ashley Judd, is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Advice for watching: do not read any of the plot details beforehand. Go in completely blind, as I did, and prepare to gasp at every twist. “Double Jeopardy” is way ahead of its time with its tough, vengeance-seeking protagonist serving as the prototype for subsequent no-nonsense ladies like Emily VanCamp in “Revenge.” I was shocked when I saw this film received poor reviews when it initially came out, as I think it would be lauded much more today — that is, if thrillers still packed as much of a punch as they once did at the box office.
Judd plays the icy, brooding role very well, especially opposite the gruff and serious Tommy Lee Jones. Aside from the legal ambiguity of how the film’s title plays out in the film, the action-packed thriller makes women’s prison the object of entertainment a whole decade before “Orange Is the New Black” did. Before I hint at any more spoilers, just go watch it on Hulu.
I think I’ve managed to fit in as many actor and movie references that are
palatable in one article, so grab a summer snack and check out any of these throwback
films or another that you need to cross off your watchlist. The connectedness of these films undeniably builds a sense of familiarity, comfort and community, and in a year as defined by isolation as 2020, you’ll find yourself longing for this sort of energy more than ever.
Parker Strubhar is a graduate student in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Current Nostalgia will appear online every other week.