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Very Bad Things

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Very Bad Things

Starring: Christian Slater, Cameron Diaz
Director: Peter Berg
Rated: R
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: November 1998
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Daniel Stern, Jon Favreau, Jeremy Piven, Leland Orser, Jeanne Tripplehorn

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

"It's a 105 pound problem that's got to be moved from point A to point B," real estate salesman and self-help fanatic Robert Boyd (Christian Slater) explains confidently to his four buddies. Well, it's a 105 pound "dead body" problem and moving it from one point to another proves anything but simple in writer and director Peter Berg's VERY BAD THINGS.

The title of the movie should serve both as a warning and a come-on. For those of you who loved THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and -- this is an important "and" -- are not squeamish when it comes to gore in the service of comedy, VERY BAD THINGS will likely prove to be an extremely enjoyable black comedy. On the other hand, if you're the type that closes your eyes during the bloody parts of films, pass on this one since you are going to miss seeing large sections of it.

The movie's satire is so dark that the word black comedy doesn't quite capture the essence of its take-no-prisoners approach. It would be more helpful if we had a grading scale like numismatists do for uncirculated coins. On a darkness scale, this movie would be a few notches shy of a black hole.

The story opens at Laura Garrety's wedding. She is an anal retentive character, played with bitchy charm by Cameron Diaz from THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY. Diaz's character has shades of the one she played in one of my favorite indie comedies, THE LAST SUPPER, in which a group of pompous liberals set out to murder conservatives as their malevolent way of improving the human race.

Flashing back to a few days earlier, her fiance, Kyle Fisher (Jon Favreau), and his four buddies, Robert Boyd (Slater), Adam Berkow (Daniel Stern), Michael Berkow (Jeremy Piven) and Charles Moore (Leland Orser) head for Las Vegas for Kyle's bachelor party.

Robert has hired the stripper, a.k.a., prostitute, that is de rigueur in such crude affairs. Before she arrives, the late twenty-something guys stoke up their bodies with liberal doses of cocaine and booze. By the time she gets there, they are jumpy and excitable. They end up breaking the furniture and her, quite accidentally, but quite permanently.

When they realize the stripper is dead, the normally nice guys do what most decent folks would, they start to call 911. One suggests calling the police instead since she is most sincerely dead. And then Robert, the group's leader, weighs in with his opinion.

"There are always options," he counsels. And options in his book include chopping up the body with electric saws and killing anyone else that might get in the way.

Meanwhile, back at home, Laura is continuing to deal with her series of crises, the biggest of which is that the chairs for the wedding aren't going to have the pads on them that she was promised. She calls Kyle frequently to demand that he stay on top of this earthshaking issue.

Once the guys make it back home, the crime begins to weigh heavily on their minds in one Hitchcockian moment after another. The best part of the film occurs in the pained look on all the guy's faces, with the exception of Robert, who is the film's truest deviant. Unlike the seriously deranged Robert, the other guys live in absolute terror of being caught. Paranoia runs rampant in everything they do.

Jeanne Tripplehorn plays the closest thing to a normal person that the film has. She is Adam's wife, Lois. A perky housewife, whose biggest problem is getting the kids their favorite candy, Lois is oblivious to her husband's panic attacks. The worst she suspects him of doesn't even come close to the sins he has committed.

Although not for the faint of heart, the movie will have you squirming in your seats and likely, laughing loudly. Our audience got so rambunctious that they begin to shush each other so they wouldn't miss any of the funny lines.

The film, which never pulls its punches, has a hilarious ending that's so non-PC and generally indecent that it is likely to evoke the strongest reaction of all from the audience. If you hated the film, you're likely to loathe this part most of all. Those who like the picture's over-the-top approach will probably think the ending is a perfect cap to a completely irreverent comedy.

VERY BAD THINGS runs 1:51. It is rated R for strong, grisly violence, sex, nudity, profanity and drug use and would be acceptable for teenagers only if they are older and mature.

Copyright 1998 Steve Rhodes

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