Better Off Dead (1985)

When I was a teenager watching these movies, I could never understand the lives of the kids in John Hughes movies. I couldn’t put myself into the headspace of the jocks or rich kids or the good looking ones. But Lane Myer? I get Lane Myer. When he finally finds that French foreign exchange student who knows all and gives him a new lease on life? That’s what I thought would get me through high school and give my life meaning.

“Savage” Steve Holland knows how to make a movie. I’ve seen this probably 4,000 times and every single viewing improves it for me.

Lane only has two interests: skiing and his girlfriend, Beth (Amanda Wyss, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, A Nightmare on Elm Street). But when she leaves him for the captain of the ski team, Roy Stalin, his life is over. So over that he decides to kill himself at every juncture, which believe it or not, ends up being hilarious.

This is a movie that knows how to cast its roles: David Ogden Stiers from TV’s M*A*S*H* as Lane’s dad, Kim Darby (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) as his mom, Curtis “Booger” Armstrong as his best friend, Yuji Okumoto (who is the best bad guy EVER in The Karate Kid Part 2)s one of the two Howard Cosell speaking race driving immigrant brothers, Dan Schneider as the evil Ricky and his testicles err…tentacles, Chuck “Porky” Mitchell as the owner of a fast food place with claymation dancing food, amazing character actors like Vincent Schiavelli  and Taylor Negron is small roles, E.G. Daily as herself rocking out, a little brother who is a bigger hit with the ladies (and a brighter scientist) than Lane, a paperboy obsessed with his two dollars and Diane Franklin (who starred in that scummy American horror movie that wishes it was Italian, Amityville II: The Possession) as the aforementioned French foreign exchange student.

This is a movie where, as I always say, hijinks ensue. There’s a dancing hamburger blasting Van Halen’s “Everybody Wants Some!!,” there’s Lane’s buddy trying to do lines of snow off the K12, there’s a one ski having ski race, there’s mothers getting blown up and there’s even the most ridiculous montage ever set to Rupert Hine’s “Arrested by You.” Truly, I could act this entire movie out for you if you’d like. Just ask me in person.

According to the director, Cusack did not like the film and walked out of a screening, later saying it “was the worst thing I have ever seen. I will never trust you as a director ever again, so don’t speak to me.” This moment made Holland no longer care about movies. When asked years later if he hated making the movie, Cusack said, “No, I just thought it could have been better, but I think that about almost all my films. I have nothing against the film. Glad people love it still.”

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