Wednesday 14 October 2009

Better Off Dead...

Originally looking for Say Anything - 'the movie where John Cusack holds a ghetto blaster above his head' - I'd gotten my wires crossed after seeing the cover for Better Off Dead so repeatedly. So off I trotted fully expecting that very scene (which I've seen lampooned all over the place, especially animated sitcoms from Fox), and I didn't get it - naturally - it's the wrong damn movie for that scene.

It does still have John Cusack in it, and it's still a good watch. It's almost like the a John Hughes movie strained through a sort of teenage, sub-Monty Python filter. It's oftentimes utterly bizarre, or blackly comic, or just downright weird.

It makes no excuse for being fairly scattergun with certain subplots (suicide contemplation, and a techno-whizz-kid little brother, for two examples) and it does feel generally low budget throughout. It doesn't have the flair of a Hughes movie from the 1980s, it doesn't have the flashy soundtrack (although the animated hamburger dancing to Van Halen is a highlight), but it does have John Cusack ... and like I've said before, if it's got him in it, it's worth seeing.

Jilted by his social class obsessed girlfriend (who trades up to some skiing douchebag spawn of a WASP community), Cusack's bewildered teenager attempts suicide and generally bumps around from moment to increasingly odd moment. A maths class with exceptionally eager and capable students (except him), for example, sets up this protagonist as a real outsider in a 'perfect' suburban world.

Then throw in a chubby neighbour's amorous advances on a French exchange student, a Howard Cosell-like Asian duo, and that aforementioned kid brother and you've got one oddball kind of 80s teen comedy.

It almost has its cake and eats it too ... it's not schmaltzy, but it still ends happily ... and rather than a whole generation of disjointed teenagers (a la John Hughes), it's just Cusack's bewildered, day-dreaming teen all on his own in a rather crazy world.

Although scattergun in its handling of the occasionally bizarre plot, and not as tightly written as a Hughes movie, it still offers plenty of free-and-easy fun.

Oh, and in case I hadn't mentioned already a bunch of times, having John Cusack in it automatically makes it worth seeing.

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