I am honored and thrilled to join The Armchair Squid and Suze from Subliminal Coffee in this month’s Mock Squid Soup Film Society. This month’s featured film is 1985’s Better Off Dead starring John Cusack.
So no surprise that I am awfully fond of many, many things 80’s. How appropriate and bodacious that I get to pen yet another post about an 80’s movie! The last one I did was for a ‘Then and Now’ bloghop for the movie Say Anything.
As my daughter observed John Cusack really was in all those 80’s movies.
I did not see Better Off Dead in the theater, I’m pretty sure I caught it when it first came out on HBO. I remember watching it with my dad, and that for days afterwards he went about shrieking, “Ricky!!” (said in Ricky’s mom’s voice) and joked about snorting Jell-O through a straw. I have always loved this flick.
This movie is compete absurdity, in every scene from start to finish. Absurdity wrapped up in a teen movie shell. Sight gags, very weird people, animated hamburgers, homemade space shuttles, cartoon characters that mock your broken heart. And all of it with a very dry and blunt delivery. It’s very tempting to share in this post each an every hilarious line, make it into more of a play-by-play than a review!
When we first meet Cusack’s character Lane we get just a glimpse of some of the weirdness going on in his life (his obsession with his girlfriend Beth- her head on every hanger in his closet! And his mother’s boiled bacon.) After he is dumped by Beth for uber-jerk Roy Stalin his world crashes down around him and just gets weirder and deliciously weirder. Here are five favorite, weird things in this movie:
5) The perverted mailman: Letters scattered on the ground behind him as he reads through people’s mail, “Foxy Lady” blaring on his Walkman, talking to Badger about trashy women, and asking Lane if he can date Beth.
4) Lane’s best friend Charles: He has spent seven years in high school, carries around a pig fetus, pines for “real drugs” and is thrilled to discover the street value of a snow-covered mountain!
3) The Japanese brothers: One of them learned English from the Wide World of Sports. With a PA system mounted to the roof of their car they are both hungry for a race with Lane.
2) Mr. Kerber’s Geometry class: He has the rapt attention of every student in it, they have huge smiles on their faces and eyes wide with wonder. Eager for homework, eager to share their work, sad to leave! Given my ineptitude with and distrust of all things math, I find this scene to be completely hilarious in its ludicrous improbability.
1) Paper boy terror! The horror-movie stylizing of the scenes with the paperboy are priceless. Johnny runs his business with mob-like intimidation and ruthlessness – nobody steals two dollars from him. I especially love the scene after the dance when Lane, while walking to his car sees Johnny roll out of the shadows on his bike while other faceless paperboys rise up from the floodlit fog in the distance.
And I’m leaving out many, many oddities. I could write a whole post just on Ricky, his mom, and poor Monique, their exchange student from France! (I always thought Monique’s clothes were so chic, so cool. Especially her over-sized trench coat.) And perhaps someday I’ll explore and try to replicate the brave and bold recipes cooked up by Lane’s mom, Jenny. These things and everything else weird in the film: what a brilliant way to convey what it feels like the world is against you. Personalities are exaggerated, enemies loom large, fears and insecurities seem as insurmountable as the K12!
Paranoia dominates every thought and interaction. And your mom just keeps on wrapping up TV dinners to give you for Christmas.
* Please hop on over to our bloghop to read the reviews of Better Off Dead from The Armchair Squid, Subliminal Coffee, and all the fine folks participating in the hop! Click here: Mock Squid Soup Film Society.
(And now your homework:
“The three cardinal trapezoidal formations hereto made orientable in our diagram by connecting the various points HIGK, PEGQ, and LMNO, creating our geometric configurations… which have no properties but with location are equal to the described triangle CAB, quintuplicated. Therefore, it is also the five triangles composing the aforementioned NIGH each are equal to the triangle CAB in this geometric concept! Therefore, in a like manner, the geometric metaphors can derive a repeated vectoral sum. This was your assignment.”)