Welcome to this week’s installment of It Came from the Bargain Bin! The Raven, The Paperboy (recently reviewed by yours truly), Identity, Grosse Pointe Blank, Being John Malkovich, Stand By Me, One Crazy Summer, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Eight Men Out, City Hall, High Fidelity, Say Anything…, Sixteen Candles, Con Air, Runaway Jury, Tapeheads,…..and so on, and so on. I think we all know what all of the previously listed movies have in common. You guessed it! All of the movies are films in which the Evanston, Illinois born, actor John Paul Cusack, at least, played a part in. Mr. Cusack may not have exactly starred in all of these movies, per se, but yes, he was in them nonetheless. I myself, do not know of any movie fan who isn’t also a fan of John Cusack. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but the fans in my age group seem to have a certain, hmmmm….affinity maybe, for John Cusack. It’s almost as if we’ve grown up with him, although he does have more than a few years on me, his movies were definitely cinematic highlights for myself when I was growing up. I mean, who doesn’t love the broken hearted anti-hero Lloyd Dobler of Say Anything…. or again, the broken hearted record store owner Rob Gordon (although many will insist that Jack Black stole the show) of High Fidelity, or my personal favorite, again the broken hearted anti-hero Lane Meyer of Better Off Dead. Okay so there may be a typecast theme of broken hearted, hopeless romantics here but maybe that is what the allure is with John Paul Cusack. We’ve all had our hearts broken and, I believe, many guys have wanted to stand outside there lost love’s bedroom window while holding a boom box that’s blasting Peter Gabriel’s mushy but loveable hit In Your Eyes, over their heads for the whole world, at least the girl, her family, and the neighbors, to see. Besides, there are many movies that Mr. Cusack did not play a brokenhearted lost soul in, like the hitman Martin Q. Blank of Grosse Pointe Blank or the Chicago “Black Sox” third baseman George “Buck” Weaver of Eight Men Out. Yes, it is safe to say that John Cusack did dodge the dreaded type casting stigma, but I, myself, will always be a fan of those roles that painted him as America’s lost in love, broken hearted male that stops at nothing for the heart of his true love. I have a feeling that many ladies out there don’t mind Mr. Cusack’s roles as a hopeless romantic roles as well. Enough of this John Cusack glorification parade. Let’s get to the review at hand, shall we. This week’s review from The Bargain Bin is a review of a personal Cusack favorite of mine. This week’s lighthearted, brief film study is of the 1985 comedy……….Better Off Dead! By the way, I apologize for the week off. I hope that I can make up for it here. Cheers!
Better Off Dead
Director: Savage Steve Holland
Writer: Savage Steve Holland
Starring: John Cusack, Diane Franklin, and David Ogden Stiers
Reviewed By: Joe Sikes
Lane Meyer (John Cusack) is your, somewhat, typical head over heels in love teen. Lane’s girlfriend is the highly popular blonde cheerleader Beth Truss (Amanda Wyss) who is probably the best looking girl in Lane’s high school and don’t think that she doesn’t know it! Okay, Lets not judge Beth for she is only human. Anyways, lets just say that Lane is mildly obsessed, in a healthy teen love kind of way, with the beautiful Beth. Like many teens, Lane’s family life is not exactly ideal but he deals with the family he has been dealt; a Mother (Jenny Meyer) that can’t cook a meal to save her life. Because her husband, and Lane’s Dad (David Ogden Stiers), is trying to eat healthier, Lane’s Mom boils the bacon to rid the meat of all of that harmful, flavorful fat. Lane’s father constantly struggles to understand Lane and proves his commitment to Lane by misusing the teen slang that he believes will help him and Lane see eye to eye. Last but not least we have Lane’s younger brother, Badger Meyer (Scooter Stevens) who is some kind of young mad genius obsessed with trashy women. Yes, Lane is surrounded by a family that makes his adolescence a not so desireable period of his life. Just when all is “normal” with Lane’s life a major snag comes out of nowhere. While on the way to enjoy a lovely day of skiing, Beth drops the bomb on Lane. Yes, you got it! The ***** dumps him! Life has suddenly taken a turn for the much, much worse.
Poor Lane! Not only is he surrounded by a family that just doesn’t understand him but now he has lost Beth, the love of his life, to super a-hole skiing machine Roy Stalin (great last name). What is Lane to do with his current predicament? Even Lane’s painfully monotone, and just strange altogether, Geometry teacher, Mr. Kerber (Vincent Schiavelli) has expressed to Lane his interest in Beth. Lucky for Lane he’s got friends like Charles De Mar (Curtis Armstrong) that can speak some sense to him and help Lane see the light at the end of the tunnel. After Charles convinces Lane that, to win back the love of his beloved Beth, Lane must ski the notorious ski trail, The K12!!, Lane commits himself completely to this pretty much impossible endeavor. Still, Lane continues contemplating suicide, dreading life as he knows it. While Lane completely engulfs himself in his own misery he has failed to notice the beautiful French exchange student Monique (Diane Franklin), who has moved in next door with Lane’s oddball neighbors, the Smiths. Will Lane conquer the K12 and win Beth back or will he finally recognize Monique who actually trains Lane for the K12 out of the kindness of her heart? Will Lane’s Mom ever cook a decent meal? Will Lane’s brother eventually get his trashy, older woman? Will Lane’s Dad continue making uncomfortable attempts to connect with him or just give up? And last but certainly not least, will that persistent paperboy ever get his two dollars? If you give a damn about the answers to any of the prior questions you will have to check out Better Off Dead!!
Ok. Obviously I like Better Off Dead very much. Better Off Dead has that combination of odd, Deadpan comedy, awkward and honestly hilarious teen love story, and well, something only a writer and director by the name of Savage Steve Holland can provide. Yes, Better Off Dead does have its moments of corniness and yes, there is a Howard Jones music, getting to know the French neighbor, good times themed montage, but these seemingly poisonous qualities actually somehow make Better Off Dead better. Some things are just inexplicable and that’s not always such a bad thing. I give Better Off Dead 2 and 1/2 out of 3 French…….Fries! See you, definitely, next week with another review from The Bargain Bin.