Volume 92, Issue 49
Tuesday, December 1, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Things brings very little
By Malcolm Schmidt
What do a dismembered body and Christian Slater's character in Very Bad Things have in common? Both will cause nausea and neither of them is close to being funny.
Peter Berg's black comedy, his writing and directorial debut, is filled with brutal violence, token cussing, drugs and prostitution. True, these things have been used in movies before but not as the focal point of the comedy.
Berg tosses some corpses and blood around expecting big laughs to ensue. It succeeded in films like Pulp Fiction, which was laughable thanks to eccentric characters like Vincent Vega and dialogue merely book-ended by violence. Very Bad Things is a bunch of unoriginal characters running around in circles, spilling as much blood as possible and having little to say.
Kyle Fisher (Jon Favreau the guy with the big head in Swingers) is about to be married to his controlling, nagging, center-of-the-galaxy fiancee Laura Garrety (Cameron Diaz), so his four buddies take him out for a bachelor party in Las Vegas. After drinking and snorting a few rails of coke, overzealous group member Michael Berkow (Jeremy Piven) decides to play ride 'em with a rented stripper/hooker in the hotel washroom, accidentally killing her.
The boys, lead by realtor Robert Boyd (Slater), choose to dispose of her remains in the desert rather than call the police. A few loose ends are naturally left untied and from here on in the bodies really start to fly to keep the dirty deed concealed.
This movie has so many flaws a list is appropriate. The direction of Berg is overly stylistic and certainly not very original. Scenes are so fast-paced they are rushed and difficult to enjoy supposing there was something to enjoy somewhere in the script. Casting could not have been much worse, as chemistry between characters is non-existent. Oh yeah, there's also a very loud and annoying soundtrack accompanying everything.
The featured actors are disappointing. Slater is nothing short of grating, with endless strings of monologues making you wish someone would punch him in the face (in this movie that kind of violence is polite). Diaz is mildly amusing, but throughout the script it's way too easy to see her acting out her part and trying to get into character.
Favreau and Daniel Stern also deserve to be targeted, as in one drinking scene the former doesn't even seem drunk and the latter turns in a sorry attempt at pretending to be. Out of an overall poor effort by the cast, credit should be given to Piven, who creates an entertaining character with very, very little to work with.
On the lighter side, there are some things worth mentioning in this very lackluster movie. Slater manages to eke out about one and a half humorous lines over 101 minutes, Stern "freaks out" unlike anyone else this century and the greatest washroom blood bath cleanup in movie history may be in here.
In terms of violent content, this film will definitely bother some people, particularly because it takes itself so seriously in its initial scenes. It is difficult to understand the motives of the film and the script should have been produced as a farcical comedy. To associate wanton violence like this with a story which holds no lesson or consequence is irresponsible, especially since the film is not spelled out as especially parodic from the start.
Very Bad Things ranges from stupid to ridiculous, with characters and conversations no one cares about and exploitative violence. This movie should only be watched on CityTV's Late Great Movies about two years from now.
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