The Wild Life isn’t necessarily a direct sequel to Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but it’s definitely a spiritual one, moving beyond high school and into whatever comes next, but still within the shared universe of a California awash in drugs, music and retail jobs.
Bill (Eric Stoltz) is in love with Anita (Lea Thompson), even though they’ve broken up. He decides that it’s time to become a grown-up and get an apartment of his own with Tom (Christopher Penn), one of his co-workers at a bowling alley. His younger brother Jim (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) is obsessed with Vietnam and spends most of his time with a strung-out vet (Randy Quaid). Along the way, they meet Anita’s best friend Eileen (Jenny Wright), their manager Harry (Rick Moranis) and a cast of weirdos who are constantly partying inside Bill and Tom’s apartment.
There are plenty of cameos and small roles by some interesting people as well, including Sherilyn Fenn, Hart Bochner, Michael Bowen, Angel Salazar, Dick Rude (Straight to Hell and the director of several early Red Hot Chili Peppers videos), Lee Ving from Fear as a cable installer, Penn’s father Leo, Crowe’s ex-wife Nancy Wilson from Heart, Ben Stein, Kevin Peter Hall not in Predator or Harry and the Hendersons or Without Warning makeup, Ashley St. John, Kitten Natividad, Ted White (who was many of the Jason stuntmen) and Ronnie Wood raiding a refrigerator at a party.
“The Wild Life” has a theme song written and performed by Bananarama and a soundtrack that includes incidental music by Eddie Val Halen*, Prince, Madonna, Andy Summers, Little Richard, Van Halen, Billy Idol, Steppenwolf and Jimi Hendrix. That soundtrack — and the music licensing fees — are why it so long to get this onto DVD, other than a made to order Universal Vault series DVD.
The new Kino Lorber blu ray of this has nine radio commercials for the film and commentary by the late Mike McBeardo McPadden and Ian Christe.
*Two Van Halen songs came out of this movie: “Good Enough” and “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)” from 5150, “Right Now” from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and “Blood And Fire” on A Different Kind a Of Truth. Some of this score also shows up in Back to the Future when Marty uses the Walkman to wake up his father. Upon the recent death of Eddie Van Halen, we examined all of his various film and TV soundtrack contributions with our “Exploring: Eddie Van Halen on Film” featurette.