Very Bad Things
Rating -

 Comedy (US); 1998; Rated R; 80 Minutes

Christian Slater: Robert Boyo
Cameron Diaz: Laura Garrety
Daniel Stern: Adam Berkow
Jeanne Tripplehorn: Lois Berkow
Jon Favreau: Kyle Fisher
Jeremy Piven: Michael Berkow

Produced by Cindy Cowan, Ted Field, Laura Greenlee, Michael A. Helfant, Joanna Johnson, Scott Kroopf, Diane Nabatoff, Michael Schiffer and Christian Slater; Directed and screenwritten by Peter Berg

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Written by DAVID KEYES

I wonder why black comedy is so popular. There has to be some sort of problem with Hollywood and its audiences in order to explain the overwhelming amount of dark humor that has emerged in theaters recently. Looking back on eleven months of trash talk, rude humor and touchy subject matter, what can be said except, "how is this happening? Why do we have so much of it?" Even critics like Siskel and Ebert seem to be getting sick of the ideas of these types of movies, and the genre has taken a turn for even more bizarre, crude material ever since "Sour Grapes" made fun of cancer and castration earlier this year.

For the most part, we've managed to at least tolerate them. We laughed at a few of the movies, reviled others, and then moved on. They come and go in our lives like the average movie in theaters, so what's the big deal? Well, when movies get as reprehensible as "Very Bad Things," it's time to take the gloves off. Here is a movie so jaw-droppingly repugnant, so morally disgusting and horrid that I'd easily compare it to the rape scenes of "I Spit On Your Grave." It is horrible beyond comprehension--one of those movies where you'd like to pause a few of the scenes so you can do a head count of all the actors who will likely have ill-fated careers after this fiasco. Never before has comedy been pushed in such a crude, unnecessary direction; never before have we been exposed to such depressing and unfunny comedy in our lives; never before have we felt as bad at one of those previous movies as we have with this one. People who will be forced to see it will likely discontinue going to the movies altogether.

What's worse, big stars like Christian Slater, Daniel Stern and Cameron Diaz are in it. Isn't it a little ironic how that the worst movies are packed with big-name casts? Do actors have no moral decency when it comes to career moves? The problems with "Very Bad Things" are so numerous that you ponder these questions over and over again in your mind. Long after the movie has ended, you still feel the shame of paying to see it, and of supporting the film's theatrical turnout. Here is the worst type of bad movie; the type where it tries to make unfunny, taboo subjects look humorous or amusing. It is perhaps the crowned king of inept black comedy, which is a hefty title, even for a genre as often deteriorating as this one.

The story itself is also a bad idea (keep in mind, now, that this is classified as 'comedy'). It's about a group of friends who go to Las Vegas and have an all-out big bachelor party with a prostitute hired to provide the night's entertainment. The low-plunging neckline, the dinky undergarments, the gyrating pelvis--she's got them all, and a character by the name of Michael (Jeremy Piven) takes advantage of those things by getting almost nude himself and engaging in sex with her. The way we see it, however, it isn't normal intercourse; it's more like a rough, animal-like sexual encounter where the man thinks he's the master and there's the notion that the woman should just sit there and let him do whatever the heck he wants to. Before you know it, the prostitute drops dead on sight, and pretty soon, all the guys realize they are in some hot water.

Deciding to cover up their murder, they take all the risks they can. Another murder later (they kill a hotel security guard), they wind up in the desert, where they cut their victims' bodies up and bury them. They then return home, only to have their vow of secrecy in regards to their crime be instantly exposed to their spouses and girlfriends. Along the lines of this formula's plot twists and resolutions, there are rude Jewish jokes, impulses of homicide being humorous, etc.

If you think any of this sounds funny, then you're in worse shape than Washington, D.C.. Movies that try to make these 'taboo' subjects look funny aren't even worth a matinee ticket price, much less a worthy box office turnout. It's like watching one of those "Friends don't let friends drive drunk" television campaigns where they show old home video shots of people who have been killed by drunk drivers. Like those moments, they are depressing and simply unfunny; the only difference is that those TV ads try to make a difference in life. The only thing a movie like "Very Bad Things" tries to do is make a difference in breaking the record for the all-time high moral repugnance. And it succeeds; director and screenwriter Peter Berg must be a confused human being who has lost all touch with reality. A movie like this just goes to show that some sort of rebel alien species couldn't be more deteriorating to the human beings of cinema even if they made a film about the makers of "Very Bad Things." It deserves its title respectively; it will leave you feeling depressed and wrought with anxiety.

I recently got into an argument with one of my debaters, Dustin Rose, about whether society has become too overwhelmed with these types of movies. He claimed that movie-goers were becoming too obsessed with these comedies. I didn't agree with him. Now, after all the thinking and pondering of his beliefs, I now realize that he was right. "Very Bad Things" is evidence of that notion. When I walk out of a picture, I like signaling to my friends at the theater of whether the film is good or bad: the thumbs up or thumbs down. The day I left "Very Bad Things" was the day I lost some of my friends. Heck, wouldn't you lose them too if you gave them the bird?

1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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