I love genre films. But I love when a genre gets turned upside down and inside out. My personal favorite genres are film noir and the western because they have the best films that are topsy-turvy takes on the genre. A genre I'm not too keen on is the teen high school comedy. To me only the ones that do it different than the John Hughes formula and the late 90's Can't Hardly Wait style are the ones I can get down with. A film like Heaven Help Us takes the teen comedy of the 80s, keeps the same rebellious spirit and throws it into a different time period and a different setting of a Catholic School. However, it still falls into a lot of the cliches of the 80s teen flick. One movie single-handedly showed that it was not going to follow convention in the 80's. That film is Better Off Dead. I have no reserve in saying that the film is a brilliant piece of movie magic.
Take your favorite teen movie of the 80s and pick out all the cliches. Hold them in your hand and turn them upside down. That's what watching Better Off Dead is. Remember that scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off when everyone was bored in class? Or War Games with Broderick again? Or Fast Times? Better Off Dead decided instead to put in a hilarious scene where the students of a very dry and mundane Geometry teacher are utterly enthralled with the class. They all do their homework, beg to be called on and laugh at his horrible non-jokes. The movie explodes with dark humor as the depressed Lane Meyer (played by the utterly amazing John Cusak) consistently fails at high school life. HE is constantly plagued by a rival aptly named Stalin, a paper boy begging for "two dollars", the mail-man, and even... animitronic hamburgers?
It's really a tale of the imagination. It's being on the inside of a teenager's brain rather than witnessing it as a subjective third person observer. All teens over dramatize the wackiness of their family. We think we can never get an even break. Even when it's just lifes dullest moments like paying your annoying paper boy. What "Savage" Steve Holland gets is how hilarious these troubles are and he blows them up to epic proportions to make us turn and laugh at how dumb our lives are.
This was a staple throughout college. Even up to this very year at a friends backyard BBQ, the night ended in a viewing of Better Off Dead. Why? It's pure comic gold that leads to laughs, smiles and nostalgia trips. It's a brilliant movie that I feel gets forgotten under the heaping pile of John Hughes movies of the 80's. It's unlike anything in its time and it's really unlike anything up to this day. I wish one day that I could have the same skewed vision of "Savage" Steve. He's one of my heroes.... in a strange way.
1. Cinema Paradiso (1988) dr. Giuseppe Tornatore
2. Rushmore (1998) dr. Wes Anderson
3. Jurassic Park (1993) dr. Steven Speilberg
4. It's A Wonderful Life (1946) dr. Frank Capra
5. Trust (1990) dr. Hal Hartley
6. Donnie Darko (2001) dr. Richard Kelly
7. On The Waterfront (1954) dr. Elia Kazan
8. Monty Python & The Holy Grail (1975) dr. Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam
9. Do The Right Thing (1989) dr. Spike Lee
10. Stop Making Sense (1984) dr. Johnathan Demme
11. Trekkies (1997) dr. Roger Nygard
12. Fight Club (1999) dr. David Fincher
13. The Sting (1973) dr. George Roy Hill
14. Ghost Busters (1984) dr. Ivan Reitman
15. This Is Spinal Tap (1984) dr. Rob Reiner
16. Better Off Dead (1984) dr. "Savage" Steve Holland
Up Next: Robin Hood (1973) dr. Wolfgang Reitherman