Many teen comedies of the 1980s and 1990s tried to imitate the verve and nerve of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but few succeeded. Films by John Hughes, such as The Breakfast Club, were much tamer. Others were much more gross and not as well-written. First-time director Amy Heckerling took a typical teen story penned by Cameron Crowe, a gabfest about sex, school, and status, and turned it into a film that is emblematic of an era. The Southern California suburban mall teen scene and its accompanying "Valley Girl" lingo were spreading widely, and this film both nails and lampoons this subculture with knowing effect. With only Taps behind him, Fast Times at Ridgemont High helped a young Sean Penn become the brightest star of a new Hollywood "rat pack" of sassy young actors. Many others, including Phoebe Cates and Judge Reinhold, also were boosted by their roles in the large and talented ensemble cast.
by Michael Betzold review