|Starring||John Cusack, David Ogden Stiers, Kim Darby|
|Directed by||Savage Steve Holland|
|Release info||11 October 1985|
Lane Myer is a high school student that’s a little too obsessed with his girlfriend of six months, Beth, when she dumps him for the captain of the Greendale Ski Team. Convinced that his life is over and that he can’t live without Beth, Lane tries to kill himself several times and fails miserably each time. Lane quickly becomes convinced that he is nothing but a failure at absolutely everything, until he meets Monique, the French exchange student who is living with the obnoxious family next door. The plot is nothing special – it’s a romantic comedy and coming of age movie rolled into one, with a distinctive 80s feel. But somehow they manage to combine the romance, comedy, and typical high school plot-line into a classic.
The movie is a fun way to spend the afternoon, and a great one to watch with friends. It has the type of humor that works well in a group, and is easily mock-able, which would probably enhance the movie rather than detract from it. Also, Better Off Dead spawned several great lines that can still be heard in conversation today (“Two dollars!” and “This is pure snow! Do you have any idea what the street value of this mountain is?”), and they’re likely to catch on easily with any people that watch the film.
There isn’t a lot of depth or commentary to the film, but that’s not the purpose. It has both a very subtle and in-your-face type of humor that meshes very well, even though you won’t expect it. It also has a collection of running jokes that show up just enough to still be funny but not to be excessive or irritating. Examples are his mother’s cooking, Charles’ quest to find drugs, and the paper boy.
John Cusack is well cast as the obsessive, quirky and surprisingly lovable Lane. He rolls well with the mood of the film, from being depressive and somber to bewildered by some of his own day dreams. Monique is adorable, and I enjoyed seeing someone with curly not-blonde hair, and very clean, natural good looks (no hyper plucked eyebrows in this movie!) She’s cute, sly, insightful, and good with cars. She is a fun albeit silent female lead, and beats out the vapid, blonde Beth any day, even if she is an unabashed French stereotype. You don’t get much better than her in dirty clothes, a baseball cap, and grease smears on her face.
The ending is predictable, but this is a feel good movie, and that’s what the ending does. The jerky guy gets beaten, the girl who dumped Lane gets embarrassed, and Lane is victorious against the geeky guy next door and gets the hot French girl. But the way they get there is wacky, funny, and sometimes dark. Better Off Dead is definitely a classic for a good reason, so the next rainy day that rolls around, go ahead and pop it into the DVD player and enjoy the silliness.