Very Bad Things – 1 out of 5
Dark comedies are hard properties to get right. Finding that blend of humor and darkness—be it a thriller aspect or horror tones or whatever—is a really difficult process because if you have too much of one side over the other it doesn’t succeed as being a dark comedy and if you can’t get the humor right then the comedy aspects of it are negligible. Very Bad Things came out in 1998, when I was in high school. During these years I was first developing my taste for dark comedies but I never gave this film a chance because I never heard a single good thing about it. The people I knew and the critics at the time were basically calling it awful. So, I ignored it. Recently, the film popped in my head so I decided to finally give it a chance. Everything I heard about it was correct. This movie is terrible!
|If only a bunch of people worked this hard to keep this movie from being released...|
|They just look like a crew who is going to do some|
illegal shit...and get away with it because they're white.
Kyle Fisher (Jon Favreau) is getting married to the woman he loves more than anything else in the world; Laura Garrety (Cameron Diaz). Before the wedding is to take place, Kyle gathers his friends; Adam Berkow (Daniel Stern) and his brother Michael (Jeremy Piven), the kinda off Charles Moore (Leland Orser) and the kinda shitty Robert Boyd (Christian Slater), and they all head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. There are drugs, booze, a stripper, and, after Michael pays the stripper for sex, he accidentally kills her. Now the gang must get rid of the body and erase any suspicion of wrong doing. It isn’t long before the heinous act starts to weigh on each and every single one of them.
|The sex worker was having sex with Jeremy Piven so death was almost an apology|
for what she went through.
Very Bad Things makes claims it is a dark comedy but I honestly didn’t find anything about it funny. While it is entirely possible to make the core concept darkly amusing I didn’t see this one succeeded in that aspect at all. Most of the funny moments basically boil down to a lot of scenes of all the characters yelling at each other. This, and all other attempts at comedy, come off more grating than anything else and it made this film super hard to sit through. To make matters even worse, so many of the scenes go on way too long. It could be argued that this is to build the tension in the scene and sometimes this formula works (like in Uncut Gems, which you can read my review of here) but in this film it just felt like it was prolonging the torture as these sequences don’t really build to anything except within the final seconds of the scene. So, essentially, in order to create dark-leaning comedy this film just subjects you to long sequences of unlikeable and wholly unsympathetic characters yelling at each other and then have the story progression come towards the end of these unbearable scenes.
|Jon Favreau's career is so stellar (and he helped give birth to my favorite thing; the MCU)|
that a stinker here and there is completely forgivable.
From a performance standpoint, this film is…eh…it’s meh. Which is sad for me to admit because there are performers in this film that I really like—for example, Jon Favreau, Daniel Stern and Christian Slater. Sadly, none of these people really seemed to be delivering. Slater never stops talking and he isn’t saying anything interesting, funny, or engaging. Favreau is a pretty bland slate as he is spending most time staring wide-eyed and has pretty much one moment of amusing insanity. Then there is the players who are just too over-the-top and that is basically everyone else.
|90s Slater always felt like he was trying to do an impression of Jack Nicholson.|
Ultimately, however, the true killer of this film is the tone. This feature never feels like a dark comedy because it is playing like a drama with a hint of crime thriller to it. There’s never a hint at levity or even the slightest seasoning of absurd or comedic until the very, very, very last seconds of the film. Then suddenly it gets slightly goofy. Sure, before that it attempts to be funny but, like I said, all attempts at humor fall flat or are just the characters all yelling at each other. Furthermore, these are just attempts at jokes not an overall arching atmosphere of humor. There are jokes in horror films and the product still won’t qualify as a dark comedy. This film just completely lacked any sense of comedic tone. It was a barren wasteland that had a single oasis that acted as its comedic element but, in reality, the oasis was a paltry puddle.
|Dick biting...I guess that is funny?|
I actively work against doing the hacky soundbite summaries of reviews that mainstream critics fall all over themselves for but Very Bad Things is a very bad movie (and I'm a hypocrite, I know, because I've made hacky jokes at the title's expense through this entire review). I supposed it could have worked as a dark comedy if put in the right hands and if the feature just went straight for the crime thriller aspect and was just about a party gone wrong that eats away at the gang it might have been interesting but as a dark comedy it is a complete and utter failure. When it isn’t doing slow-motion montages set to lethargic music tracks (and it does this an obnoxious and completely unnecessary amount of times), the film is absolutely floundering when it is attempting to do a comedic scene or just failing to craft a tone and atmosphere that is synonymous for dark comedies. Add in the really grating performances and a story that realistic didn’t have enough meat to it to warrant a feature length and it resulted in a film that I have a very, very, very hard time getting through.