Saturday, January 13, 2007

Movie Review: Very Bad Things 2 stars

Lost somewhere between the murder and mutilation of Very Bad Things there is comedy. It is unforgiving, it is sick and twisted, and difficult to laugh at, but it’s comedy, nonetheless. Just be careful going in. This is not just a dark version of My Best Friend’s Wedding, this is Bachelor Party meets Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer.

Kyle (Jon Favreau) is set to marry Laura (Cameron Diaz) in just a couple of days, but while Laura agonizes over the seating arrangements, Kyle’s friends are taking him to Las Vegas for his bachelor party. After some mindless testosterone-ing in the bars and casinos, a stripper/prostitute arrives at their hotel suite to kick the party into overdrive. The only problem is Kyle and his friends are extremely drunk and high, and before you can say, “involuntary manslaughter” the prostitute is dead. Led by Boyd (Christian Slater), a personal growth seminar with eyebrows, the group agrees to keep the police out of it and bury the girl in the desert.

Things begin to get very bad, however, when a hotel security guard sees the body, and Boyd decides to kill him as well. Now, completely screwed, this band of regular Joes (including Daniel Stern, Jeremy Piven and Leland Orser) must do the unspeakable to cover their tracks and get out sight unseen. Successful (as much as one can be in such endeavors) and back home, the guilt of their cover up begins to eat away at their psyches and, despite all of Laura’s insistence to the contrary, Kyle’s impending nuptials look to be in jeopardy.

Director Peter Berg wants to have it both ways. He tries to shock us with ugly, immediate gore and he wants us to laugh at the offbeat humor such gruesome situations spawn. However, the light tone he sets and the cast of comedic actors he’s assembled does not prepare us for what’s about to come. The only justification behind all of the killing is selfish paranoia, therefore, the laughs become uncomfortable and the whimsy with which some of these characters handle their predicament is reprehensible. Most of the actors do as much as they can with their roles, with Favreau delivering the most realistic performance. You almost begin to feel sorry for his poor groom-to-be, until you realize that these are all his friends …by choice.

Best categorized as a public service announcement against male-bonding, Very Bad Things will undoubtedly make some people laugh – most of whom I suspect are institutionalized. However, as recently evidenced by the likes of There’s Something About Mary and Happiness, the sickest of humor has been getting the biggest laugh, and while it may not reach the same plain as those two, it undoubtedly falls somewhere between the hair gel gag and hilarity of pedophilia.

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