Thursday, November 22, 2012

Better Off Dead (1985)

John Cusack Film Fest Movie #6 [Believe it or not, I first watched this movie in a Grade 10 or Grade 11 social studies class for a unit on suicide; the teacher – who also spent months teaching JFK assassination conspiracy theories as fact – somehow believed Better Off Dead offered insights into teenage suicide]

Synopsis: Forlorn, fatalistic fuckup forfeits flame, falls for foxy, flirtatious female frog.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Writer/director Savage Steve Holland says ‘Better Off Dead’ is semi-autobiographical. After his high school love ditched him, he picked up an 8-millimeter camera and made some depressing movies that had the exact opposite effect on his friends – they laughed.”

What Did I Learn?: If you’re ever asked to coach skiing, you might wish to reply: “Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.”

Really?: Better Off Dead is a zany comedy, and isn’t meant to be taken all that seriously, but I’m a little surprised Beth would be so blasé about Roy’s constant put-downs towards Lane. 2) Roy STALIN? Is there a reason the villain is named after a Soviet mass-murderer? 3) Why would Rocko hire Lane for his burger joint after he crashed into his vehicle not once, but twice? 4) Wouldn’t it have been so much easier to simply pay the psychotic paperboy his $2? 5) So wait – Lane takes Monique to the same burger joint where he was fired? And Rocko allows him to serve his own meal? WTF?

Rating: Better Off Dead has a few genuine laughs, as well as a kick-ass 80s soundtrack, but it’s a rather predictable and dopey by-the-numbers teen comedy (interestingly, the dude who portrayed the title character in Porky’s has a small part), and I understand that Cusack himself was never fond of the film. Certain scenes (especially in the burger joint) seem tacked-on. 6/10 stars.

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