Sunday, October 26, 2008

Better Off Dead (1985)

I cannot believe it has taken me well over a month to write a review of this movie. It screened at the Arbor as part of the Retro Replay series that they were trying out. That was on 9/3/08 and here it is now, 10/25/08. What the hell have I been doing with my time? Well, watching movies, a lot of movies. Currently, I am 28 reviews behind, but once I knock this one out I'll only be 27.

When I was a kid I liked this movie a lot, and by the time I was a teenager, it had become one of my all time favorites. I just remember thinking how zany and weird it was at the time, and how different it was than the other movies that I grew up around. Little did I know back then that in its own way, "Better Off Dead" was kind of my gateway drug for "Cult" movies. Years later, I showed it to my girlfriend and (after hearing about how it was one of my favorite movies) she just stared at me with a confused look on her face.

John Cusack plays Lane Meyer, an obsessive teenager whose girlfriend, Beth, dumps him because it's in her best interest to date someone who is "more popular, better looking, and who drives a nicer car." Lane takes it bad...really bad. He tries to kill himself several times, but fails miserably each time. His life becomes more complicated when Beth falls for the town's local pretty boy and school ski team captain, Roy Stalin, the only man ever to ski the K-12. Throw in the fact that the nerdy, fat, and obnoxious next door neighbor, Ricky, has a potential girlfriend in French exchange student, Monique, and Lane's life is pretty much horrifying (by teenage standards that is).

There are a lot of little touches that really go a long way in separating this 80's Teen Comedy from the pack; the Japanese street racing brothers (one of whom talks like Howard Cosell), the psychotic, menacing newspaper delivery boy, and the claymation Van Halen video/dream sequence, just to name a few. It also does an admirable job of both satirizing the conventions of the Teen Angst genre, while also carving it's own unique, yet true take on them.

Watching it for the first time in a theater with well over a decade of strange cinema under my belt, obviously "Better Off Dead" didn't register the same way it used to, but unlike my recent "Ghostbusters" screening, I still managed to take something new away from it. For starters, the character of Ricky came off less nerdy this time around, and more daring. He has no problem dancing at the dance, he pushes the other, weaker nerds around, and when it comes time to fight Lane at the end, he doesn't back down. Secondly, Lane's best friend, Charles (played by Booger from "Revenge of the Nerds), still steals the movie. His line deliveries, facial expressions, and screen presence ages better than anything else has in the movie, especially the soundtrack and the "my $2's" gag.

Anyway, onwards to next review!!!

"Better Off Dead" screened on 9/3/08 at 7:00 at the Arbor as part of the Retro Replay series.

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