Romy and Michele's High School Reunion may be a light, bubbly comedy, but astute moviegoers are already eyeballing the influence of gore-teur Quentin Tarantino. In one scene, as Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow gorge on junk food, a Big Kahuna bag perches conspicuously on a couch. Later, as the pair slide into a Jaguar, a billboard for Red Apple cigarettes stands in the background. If these fictional products sound familiar, that's because in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction Samuel L. Jackson vividly sings the praises of the Big Kahuna burger, and Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman smoke Red Apples. Similarly, in Tarantino's From Dusk Till Dawn, George Clooney can be seen carrying a Big Kahuna bag, and a pack of Red Apples is visible in his car. ''It's a signature thing,'' says graphic designer Jerry Martinez, who created the ersatz brands for Tarantino. ''It's Quentin's way of saying all these different characters share the same universe.''
Including the cutesy Romy and Michele? Not really. The products were slipped in as an in-joke among friends: Tarantino has been dating Sorvino for some time, and Reunion production designer Mayne Berke is a Martinez buddy. There's also a practical side. ''It simplifies things,'' says Berke. ''One of the most laborious and time-consuming things you can go through in making a film is getting clearances on [trademarked products].''
But don't go looking for Big Kahunas or Red Apples in Tarantino's next project, Jackie Brown, which starts shooting in May. Instead, the director has taken another tack. He's named the new company that's producing Brown Mighty Mighty Afrodite (a tip to Sorvino's Oscar-winning stint in Mighty Aphrodite).