O@tM: Better Off Dead (1985)

BoDposter
Nothing really matters

The teenager Lane Meyer has a crush on his girlfriend Beth Truss. When Beth dumps him to stay with the successful skier Roy Stalin, Lane is depressed and decides to commit suicide. However he gives up and tries to improve his skill of skier to ski the dangerous K12 slope to impress Beth. Meanwhile his neighbor Mrs. Smith receives the exchange French student Monique Junot and her fat son Ricky Smith considers Monique his girlfriend; however, Monique has an unrequited crush on Lane that does not note her. When Lane stumbles upon Monique in a high-school party, he befriends her. The upset Lane challenges Roy in a competition on the K12 slope but then he regrets. However Monique is a great mechanic and skier, and fix Lane’s Camaro and teaches him how to ski the K12 slope. What will happen to Lane?

IMDb: 7.1

John Cusack, Diane Franklin, and Dan Schneider in Better Off Dead... (1985)

Hey, I’ve put the year of this film’s production right in the title of this review since it’s kinda all what BoD is all about. And as a warning! Don’t like cheese – better stay away from this flick. Because cheesy it is, but not in a good way. :/

John Cusack plays a very lame Lane Meyer in a very lame way

Confused by this very … um, inconsiderate, synopsis? Don’t be, as it kinda accutarely tells you what happens in the movie. It’s a shambles. The script can never decide if it’s a drama or a comedy. And the direction by a certain Savage Steve Holland is so all over the place, he never knows how to direct his kinda impressive cast.

Diane Franklin in Better Off Dead... (1985)
Wide-eyed and bushy tailed Diane Franklin as French exchange student sports a charming fake french accent

Lane tries two or three times to off himself. But it’s so unconvincingly set in scene and played, you can’t develop any empathy for the character at all. So it’s a comedy, right? No, yes, maybe, we won’t know. Because it’s not funny neither. Not that they didn’t try to make it hilarious but they failed every time.

Kim Darby and Laura Waterbury in Better Off Dead... (1985)
I bet the actors had lots of fun on the set, which is never a good sign for the end result. :/

Actually, thinking back (we watched BoD just a couple hours ago) we didn’t laugh a single time in this movie. Maybe the one or other smirk, but that was all. And it’s a shame, really. BoD had all the right ingredients to become a huge teenage hit, kinda epitome of the whole 80s teenager flick culture rolled in one movie. But it failed super badly.

Curtis Armstrong in Better Off Dead... (1985)
Curtis Armstrong as typical 80s best mate, did what he could with his underdeveloped character

Both girl love interests were badly developed and boring, as was Lane’s best mate. Lane’s crush, or let’s better say ‘obsession’ leaves him for his rival, and we don’t get any reaction from Lane but just a botched suicide attempt. The french girl turns out to be not just a superduper car mechanic (of course, she’s French) but also a super duper skier (she’s French you must know), enough reasons for Lane to fall in love with her.

David Ogden Stiers and Kim Darby in Better Off Dead... (1985)
Super calm dad: David Ogden Stiers disappoints like the rest of the cast

That’s hilarious, right? It should be but … as everything else in this lame flick, it just happens and … and what? It happens, we’ve seen it, what else do we want? Expected a cheesy over the top reaction? Cusack is too cool and can’t be bothered. Neiher can’t his movie-daddy David Ogden Stiers. Why did the screenplay elaborately get them into so much trouble if they, or the director, didn’t make anything of it?

John Cusack, Curtis Armstrong, Aaron Dozier, Diane Franklin, Dan Schneider, and Amanda Wyss in Better Off Dead... (1985)
Fatty weirdo, druggy weirdo, hot chicks, arrogant rival, overwhelmed hero: The typical 80’s teenage flick. Just in bad. 😦

When looking at the screenshots now I gotta say that individual acting wasn’t that bad in parts, and some, particularly the female roles did everything to get something out of their very restricted screentime. While Lane’s crush Beth Truss had literally nothing to do but just being a blonde bimbo with very basic taste in boys, Diane Franklin as Monique, was the only positive appearence in the whole flick, her wide-eyed positivity embodied the naive 80’s flick like no other actor here.

Diane Franklin and Dan Schneider in Better Off Dead... (1985)

CONCLUSION:

Listen, I dunno how I stumbled upon this shitshow, probably have heard or read some review and how bad it was … and decided to give it a try. And maybe, had I seen it as a teenager myself – I was 19 at that time – I’d enjoyed it. But now, with 34 years in between, it’s just crappy crapola!

Maybe, maybe I should watch some other, more famous 80s teenage flicks. Hmm, Breakfast Club did impress me when it came out. I was a Molly Ringwald and Simple Minds fan if I remember correctly. And the conflicts and drama and acting appeared to be more real. I don’t think it did age well neither. :/

But Breakfast Club did at least come with an international hit song. 🙂

 

7 comments

  1. Yes, I remember this movie! Thank you! So true!

    It’s almost a precursor to how kids are today (at least in the USA–not sure about other countries, but probably not so much) where, evidently, anything that goes wrong in their lives, especially if they find themselves the target of bullying, kids are KILLING THEMSELVES now !!!

    I don’t mean to be non-empathetic. So sad to see a rise in suicide from the very young. But the other question one has to ask is: WHY? What the hell happened? Why’s everyone so soft and so sensitive and the only way out of an uncomfortable situation is to kill yourself? Maybe because of how kids have been raised for the last 20 or 30 years now? Keeping gluten out of the house even if nobody’s allergic? Being super-overprotective and lenient? Giving them trophies just for showing up (even if they came in last place).

    So…this movie was before all that started happening but seems to be prophetic, for real.
    On top of which, the tone WAS all wrong and terrible. Speaking of which: Did you ever see The Book of Henry? I should do a blog on THAT thing! If I can wrack my brains to remember how truly terrible it was. Speaking of all the wrong tone……..! OMG, what a nightmare!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • With all the time gone since 1985 and 2019, and having no kidz of my own, \o/ Whoohoo! \o/ for that, I can’t say anything about the reality of life for teenies today. But we never had this rivalry and bullying in school, no cool clicques n stuff. In Germany you went to school for a maximum of 7 hours/day, mostly 6, from 7-8 a.m. to 12:30, 13:30 in the p.m.. We had lunch at home, not in school. When both parents were working we knew how to cook our own meals. I was a so-called “key kid” for 2 or 3 days a week. Meaning I had to let myself in and prepare my lunch and do the homework.

      And in school strictly no clubs and extracurricular activites n shit. And we learned Oxford English, and our teachers didn’t like it when we slipped into American accents or used American words or what we thought were American accents. We didn’t know since all English language movies were dubbed anyway, and learning English was a non-needed hassle, a luxury item.

      Stick to the plan. Learn the teached content, go home. Go play, do homework, go shopping, read a book, watch TV, play football or whatever. So we weren’t forced to spend the whole day with the other assholes but could be assholes on our own. And no detention or retention or what you call it, like in Breakfast Club.

      Anyway, we grew up faster than our American and British counterparts. But we didn’t know and it only dawned on me after my bf and me got the internet and I had to resurgitate some English in order to converse with people internationally. And I noticed with many – not you! -I have the feeling I’m talking to 12 year-olds … and then they tell you they are, like, 50 or sumfink. Don’t speak a second language, don’t even kow how to wash their own clothes, or cook a quick meal, never were abroad, know fukall about the world but know exactly that the USA is the greatest, most freedom country in the world and Old Bumfuque/Indiana is the bestest little town. Oh, and cheap oil is a god-given right for Americans, and the rest of the world should be happy to live under US protection! And if we behave we can become members of your gang, NATO. Mhm. 😉

      No idea if suicide numbers are higher today than back then. Don’t care much. They have crappier parents, to be sure. Parents are usually both working these days, that’s why so many schools in Germany also switched to the whole-day model. Kidz are kinda parked in school, responsibiliy for their education and nutrition shoved to the teachers. The longer they are away the better, so daddy and mommy can work the money-making extra-hours.

      And I can tell you kinda exactly what happened in the last 20 – 40 years: Lotsa useless wars, Reagan, Thatcher, conservative gov’mts, yuppies, moneymoneymoney, surveillance up the wazoo. Easy “solutions” for difficult problems, political charlatans, loss of brainage, right wing nazis on the rise, loss of values and principles, asshole parents rising asshole kidz … the list goes on.

      When I grew up American life was supposedly cool and we all tried to be like the cool American teenies. Skateboards, surfboards, the cool big cars. Only when you grew a little older you noticed it was all just a circus. When you watched Breakfast Club not because you wanted to be cool like Molly Ringwald, but looked into it a bit deeper. you noticed and asked yourself “What the fuk are they doing there? It’s obviously a weekend, not a work/school day, they are restricted to the classroom to do … what exactly? Just sitting out their time? Is this prison or what?” Our parents would have protested so hard against treatment like that: Saturday/Sunday daddy and the kidz belong with the family, they belong on the campground, sailboats, soccer fields, sports competitions, beaches, or in winter skiing, family stuff, whatever adventures … but they don’t belong in school or workplace. I guess Breakfast Club was one of the defining moments for me, to learn about the American system … and that I didn’t like it.

      Yes, a stupid teenie flick helped me open my eyes. And then it became more and more apparent: Film music and biggest hit by a decidely un-american, Scottish band who had their best days behind them at that time already, and tried to adapt from small punkish clubs and experimental music to arena rock. The overall dreary atmosphere of the movie, the feeling of suppression, kidz hating each other … all that we never knew in Germany. It was completely different with us, more a feeling of solidarity, we all have to go through this shit together, so let’s help each other rather than fight each other.

      Oh man, I’d hate to be a kid today. 😮

      But I digress, writing myself into a rage. Better stop now …

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very informative, though, all rage aside. Interesting how you grew up in Germany. It sounds like a better perspective on things to me, like where family is concerned and kids being more independent.
    Because you’re right about the idea of detention: it is prison. A little slice of prison *punishment*, and I doubt there’s any positive effects from it.
    I remember seeing the Breakfast Club and thinking there’s no way kids would become that vulnerable and open with each other, especially crying. I was like, oh my god, COME ON. I hate schmaltz of any kind. I think I was really pissed off after I saw that movie. It was one of those where everyone loved it, so when I finally gave in then went and saw it, of course I was the black sheep coming out of it like, “What the HELL did I just see?”

    I definitely know very little about Germany and only started getting a little feel for it after seeing Das Boot (or at least German men) Wings of Desire and Run, Lola, Run. But that’s not very much to go on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL, Das Boot is rather non-typical for Germany. WW2 is more than 70 years in the past, and Germany is a totally different country these days. Nothing to learn about Germany fro that flick.Particulary when it’s about Hitler and his nazi gang. I guess we are even the only country in the whole world where it’s illegal to own and show off nazi paraphernalia. Of course with the growing right wing movement around the planet, all the xenophobia and stuff, any even Israelis asking us why there are no German soldiers involved in international conflicts, I really … ugh, I’m giving up. Or to say it with Prof. Hubert Farnsworth:

      Never heard of Wings of Desire, and Run Lola run was just a silly little gangster comedy. The way it was made was something new and particular back then, which made it such a hit with the German youth.

      And, yes, we were definately more independent than kidz in America, for mostly practical reasons. Germans are living closer to schools, even the country folk, so everybody uses their bikes or scooters, and kidz are not driven to school by their moms, and if they need to take the bus or the underground, voila we have very good public transport. Skoolies are virtually unknown.

      Maybe that was different in the 70s, which was probably the most free era in Western countries. I notice that the kidz nowadays are a lot less independent.Can be also the technical stuff. Kids aren’t playing outside, in the woods or somewhere anymore, they all sit at home with their game consoles. :/

      But I noticed the difference in a YouTube video by an American expat in germany, who was astonished to see so many children riding the underground and buses all by themselves, alone or in cliques. Was a very alien sight for her. She didn’t really get it, but in Germany we just see kid must get to school, so kid needs a bicycle or a yearly ticket for the public transport. All, after that is kid’s own problem to manage. They aren’t really stupid, y’know. Voila, problem solved.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I wasn’t thinking WWII in Das Boot as much as it was interesting to see the German characters, the men, themselves, and it was one of the first times I ever got to hear German spoken in a sustained manner. So your Lola was like our Breakfast Club, ha ha ha. Just a popularity thing. But hubby and I were fond of the lead and fairly upset that they just killed her off immediately at the start of Bourne Identity 2 (I forget the actual title). We figured she must have asked for more money and got da ACTUAL boot, lol….
        Kids are DEFINITELY not as independent here. I think they’re all still attached to the umbilical cord along with the batteries in their devices. Kids are soft, too sensitive, in a bubble, unhealthy physically, and weirdly socialized. I do feel sorry for the world they’re inheriting, though, and the crappy role models they have as adults (generally speaking). Oh well, Bleeeeeehhhhhhh…………

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s