Ha! And you thought it was the year of the volcano movie. It's really the year of the high-school reunion movie: "Grosse Pointe Blank" and now "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion."

The generation that grew up with John Hughes flicks, in which moussed suburban teens had cross-clique romances with Molly Ringwald, has returned to re-evaluate. But despite similar, kickin' '80s soundtracks, these two films have done it quite differently.

"Blank," which stars the same sibling Cusacks, John and Joan, who had tiny roles in "Sixteen Candles" all those years ago, shows our hero as a frustrated kid who fled his high-school romance and joined the Reagan-era military only to become a warped hit man. It's ironic and smart.

"Romy and Michele," on the other hand, has no clue that a decade has passed.

Romy (Mira Sorvino, who hasn't let her Oscar for "Mighty Aphrodite" get in the way of a good time) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow of "Friends") have great chemistry as daffy best friends who were misfits in high school and have been roommates ever since. Though they're too gorgeous for us to take them seriously as outcasts, their patter about hair and similar issues of national consequence is deeply amusing.

The movie is really about their friendship, not the reunion, and their sweet affection is winning. Unfortunately, the message is not what you'd call subtle. We GET it already. Can we have a PLOT now?

The pals get an invite to the reunion and realize that, despite their happy-go-lucky lives, they have no real achievements to tell their classmates about. Of course, they try to invent a career, but it's inevitable that hilariously bitter classmate Janeane Garofalo will blow their cover. (Even I know that Romy and Michele didn't invent Post-Its!)

We've learned all about their persecution at the hands of the " 'A' group" cheerleaders through flashbacks. Absurdly, the cheerleaders are still just as mean after 10 years ("Heathers" did it better), and Romy and Michele arrive still feeling like losers. Their peers' few transformations are cosmetic, not to mention cliches (the geek gets rich; the Don Juan gets a fake-looking beer belly; the cheerleaders get married). A fantasy sequence has no emotional impact because the "reality" is a fantasy.

Romy and Michele are endearing airhead savants, but their charm can't carry the movie. The pals were created by screenwriter Robin Schiff as minor characters in a play called "Ladies' Room," and they still don't seem rich enough for a full-length film. Sentimentality is a poor substitute for substance, and the zingers, while witty in their witlessness, don't come fast enough to fill the void.

'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion'

Starring Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow

Directed by David Mirkin

Released by Touchstone Pictures

Rating R (language, implied sex)

Sun score **

Pub Date: 4/25/97

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