Another flick from the 80's that went right over my head. This was a title I was always familiar with, but not a lot of people ended up talking about it within my circle of friends. It pretty well faded into obscurity, but I stumbled on it again when looking for some "coming of age" titles from the 80's I haven't seen yet. Luckily for me, this was a good choice.
We meet Lane Meyer (John Cusack) who is dumped by his girlfriend, Beth Truss (Amanda Wyss) for a cocky jock skier named Roy Stalin (Aaron Dozier). Obsessed with her, Lane spends most of his days thinking of a world without her, and thus considering ending his life. His other option is to go through with his challenge to Stalin to race him down the dangerous K12 slope, which Stalin has set a ski record for. In doing this, he hopes to impress Beth and win her back.
Meanwhile, Lane's neighbors, Ricky Smith (Dan Schneider) and his mother (Laura Waterbury) take in a French exchange student named Monique (Diane Franklin). She has to live with Ricky's creepy affection for her, as well as his overbearing mother, who treats her as her own child, giving her next to no freedom. However, she meets and befriends Lane at a party, and could be the answer to helping him out on the K-12, along with a few other things.
In the background, we get a lot of good genuine laughs with Lane's family, alone. His Dad (David Ogden Stiers) sees him as going through a phase, and tries very hard to keep up with the lingo of the time, failing miserably. His Mom (Kim Darby) is a running gag through the movie as she keeps trying to cook, having it always end horribly. Lastly, his kid brother, Badger (Scooter Stevens), has no dialogue through the whole movie, but might be the best side note of it. He's constantly tinkering away in his room, making awesome inventions, and researching how to pick up women. It makes me wonder if anything about his character was an inspiration for Stewie Griffin, but it's hard to find details about Badger. Either way, a very likable background character for me.
Now, speaking only for myself, it's actually a treat to see a movie that doesn't make fun of suicide, but makes light of the idea that ending things based on an obsession with one person is just plain silly. It does a good job of reminding the viewer that no matter how distraught you are over a breakup, or someone who just plain isn't interested, it's not the end of the world. Remember that there's a bright, beautiful world out there, full of possibilities, and one person doesn't actually matter nearly as much as you feel they do at the time.
This was a film that really hit home for me. The comedy was creative and often cartoonish, which is right up my alley. That comedy is consistent in the visuals when it comes to things like Mrs. Meyer's cooking, and moreso, Lane's imagination. Hell, there's a full musical number here involving claymation burgers. But the best running gag here involves a punk paperboy (who I now realize the 'Dennis the Menace' movie totally payed homage to) named Johnny Gasparini (Demian Slade). He's like a little mob boss who is always chasing down Lane throughout the film for $2 that Lane refuses to pay. The end result is laugh out loud hilarious.
I could go on and on, but clearly this is a title that has earned my praise (as far as that goes), along with its director, Savage Steve Holland. This is a guy who has an array of titles I haven't seen yet, and I might just make him the subject of next month. This was my intro to him, I loved it, and I feel like I could be missing out on some pretty solid material. Or at least material that's a little more up my alley than others. Whether or not any of them are good or bad, I will say this - 'Better Off Dead' is now on the list of go-to titles when I find myself struggling with my thoughts, and if you have an open enough mind, I'd recommend it to anyone else for the same reasons.