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Better Off Dead... More at IMDbPro »

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54 out of 76 people found the following review useful:

The ultimate teen angst flick!

10/10
Author: Tim Rollins from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
23 August 2005

If there was ever a role that John Cusack milked until it mooed, this one would have to have been it. His portrayal of Lane Meyer will forever be remembered in high school lore as the Ultimate Champion of the Underdog. I laughed so hard my sides ached and tears were running down my cheeks. What has long been a cult classic, this film did an excellent job of portraying the awkwardness of those teenage years that all adults thank God every day that we now have behind us. "Savage" Steve Holland's directorial debut was simply sensational; he could not have picked a better vehicle in which to make his mark!

Rounding out the cast includes Amanda Wyss as the fickle girlfriend who is more interested in her popularity than anything else; David Ogden Stiers (Major Winchester from M*A*S*H fame) as the dad who tries too hard to be "in", Kim Darby is priceless here as the mother who is completely, absolutely and utterly clueless, Scooter Stevens as Lane's little brother Badger is one ongoing surprise after another, and what is probably going to go down as BY FAR the most coveted film role in the 20th century, Demian Slade plays the paperboy from Hell. His portrayal alone makes the film not only worth watching, but worth buying! To close matters off in the casting department, the chemistry between Cusack and Diane Franklin – who plays the French foreign exchange student Monique Junot, is something that simply cannot be denied. Keep in mind however, that whatever you do – that like The Cable Guy – DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT take your eyes off that paperboy!

Cusack and Holland do a perfect job of capturing that period of time in the 1980's better than any other film of the period. This film is well worth an evening's entertainment. Rent it once, and then buy it, as you will want to watch it many times over. It took me SEVEN YEARS to find a copy in VHS. The DVD was just bought for $10.00 and change from from Wal-Mart.com. I highly recommend this film to one and all as a MUST-OWN!

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this film a 12/10. ***

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43 out of 55 people found the following review useful:

Classic 80's Movie Must See

10/10
Author: Kristal Gurks from Tampa
4 June 2004

This is a must have in your DVD collection. Some love it, some say OK, some don't laugh at all. I say, you must have the uncanny ability to laugh at things ordinary people wouldn't understand the humor in. I've owned this movie on VHS and now DVD and have a steady belt of laughter each countless time I watch it. This is one of those movies where you are with your friends twenty years later and go, "I WANT MY TWO DOLLARS" and the room jocularly erupts and instigates discussion. If you find yourself easily amused, can see the humor in the way life hands you a sour glass of milk to wash down lifes trials in love, then you MUST see this Classic Movie that made me a Cusack fan!

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56 out of 82 people found the following review useful:

Truly, a sight to behold!

10/10
Author: Dan Grant (dan.grant@bell.ca) from Toronto, Ontario
26 July 1999

Better Off Dead is the zaniest movie that I think I have ever seen. Let's just recap what this movie has in it. We have a guy that attempts suicide but he can't even succeed at that. There is his best friend that declares that a mountain they are on in the dead of winter is pure snow, saying " Do you know what the street value of this is?" We have a father that is trying to speak the lingo of his kids and fails miserably and a mom that cooks food that literally slides off it's plate. We have a math class full of genius' that get upset when they don't have homework to do. Lane has a younger brother who orders books on how to pick up trashy women and learns how to build rockets. We have the entire male population ( and Barney Rubble ) that wants to go out with Lane's ex-girlfriend now that they are broken up. There is two Oriental guys that want to constantly race Lane and then broadcast it over the loud speaker on their car. There is Porky from the Porky's movies basically playing the same role here, dancing hamburgers, a basketball team that grunts and of course the most relentless paper boy in the history of paper delivery.

Whoooooooo! I'm out of breath. So why do I mention all of these things about the movie? Because all of these little issues combine to somehow make one of the funniest and zaniest movies you will ever see. Better Off Dead is so full of energy that there is enough material in here for ten movies. But Savage Steve Holland makes it work. Don't ask me how, but he does. I think I'm going to stop here because if you haven't seen this movie you have to see it now. This is a completely original film and it also one that no one will ever have the guts to make again. This is one hell of a film.

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21 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Bizarre. But disarmingly so.

7/10
Author: pleiades10 from Woodbridge Va
18 December 2000

John Cusack's girlfriend has just dumped him for the biggest jerk in school, and John deals with the depression, anger, and frustration in humorous ways. Slowly, he finds himself bonding with French exchange student Diane Franklin, a beautiful and clever young woman, that helps to build up Cusack's self-image so he can win his girlfriend back.

Better Off Dead follows a familiar basic storyline. Main likeable character is dealt a bad hand in life, pulls themselves up by their bootstraps, and ends up triumphing over the people who pushed them down. This formula led to such films as "Animal House", "Revenge of the Nerds", and "Porky's". Not that these films are bad, they are just similar in basic plot.

Better Off Dead however, adds a bizarre surreal quality unaccomplished by these other films. Perhaps this is due to the claymation hamburger sequence, or the unlikely skiing competition at the end of the film.

Or perhaps it's due to the parade of familiar faces from other 80's films. John Cusack's best friend is none other than Curtis Armstrong, best known as "Booger" in the Revenge of the Nerds movies. Next door neighbor and consummate slob Dan Schneider is recognizable as "Dennis" from the TV show "Head of the Class". Cusack's boss at the fast food joint is played by Chuck Wallace, the title character from "Porky's". And with a bit part, yet one the funniest in the whole film, Yano Anaya reprises his "Grover Dill" persona from "A Christmas Story" in the form of a vengeful paperboy. I WANT MY TWO DOLLARS!!!!

Also has some of the funniest lines in 80's teen comedy, such as Franklin's accidental misuse of the word "testicles", and the comment made by an onlooker when Cusack tumbles into a trash truck.

Definitely better than the majority of 1980's teen comedies.

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38 out of 62 people found the following review useful:

I've watched this film about 7 times and I'm no dummy!

10/10
Author: (sylviastel@aol.com) from United States
17 July 2002

Better Off Dead is a spoof takeoff of the John Hughes' eighties films about teen angst. John Cusack plays wonderfully as Lane Myer who had an obsessive relationship with his ex girlfriend, Beth, who breaks up the relationship for somebody better. Miserable, he tries to kill himself several times without failure. As his friend played brilliantly by Curtis Armstrong tells him "Suicide is not the answer" and lines like "I've been going to high school for 7 years, I'm no dummy." While Lane depresses over his adolescence existence in a small northern California town, the laughs just keep getting better. His mother is obsessed with cooking. The father sets him up with a date when he worries his son is going insane. On top of all that, Lane is being hunted down by an unpaid paper boy who will stop at nothing to get his $2.00 and surprisingly, he finds love under his nose. I have to say this movie will leave you wanting more and more.

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17 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Blurred Realities

8/10
Author: jldmp1 (jldmp1@aol.com) from United States
15 February 2006

Ahhhh...an actual dark comedy. I watched this again, to clear my mind of "Wilbur..."

What makes this a cut above is the composition of sight gags -- 'How to build a space shuttle out of household items' is in the foreground, and then the eye pulls back to reveal the mother battling a sea monster in a pot, which frustrates her attempt to cook it...Cusack frets over an impossibly broken binding, and in the same frame the 'paperboy from hell' appears on a weatherized delivery bicycle...it's priceless stuff.

The story is told visually, you see...this has less to do with dialogue (although what there is of it, is classic), than with the idea of the writer's imagination conflated with movie imagination conflated with movie 'reality'. We see Holland seeing Cusack seeing the situations somewhere in between Holland's imagination and the platform of the movie (high school role playing - already a confused reality). At key points, Holland literally invents characters on paper or in stop motion animation to further warp that perception. These realities continually blur with 'real' reality, and the sheer absurdity keeps it seamless.

Some impressive camera work during the skiing portions.

This is capable film-making that can be enjoyed as what it was meant to be.

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20 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Everybody Wants Some....

9/10
Author: Kris Earle from Boston, MA
10 March 1999

I recently held a movie survey for an upcoming 12-hour "silly film" party at my house. This movie, surprisingly, was the top title to be voted on out of about 40 movies. Then I thought about it a bit - I loved this flick, and over 14 years, videos have been rented and others saw it and love it as well. What other flick can have a homicidal paper boy, a japanese guy who speaks only as howard cosell, a car that has darkened our driveway for six months, the k-12, and charles demar? The love story inside of it is good as well. "Reminds me of the moonshine Ricky's dead pappy used to make - God Bless him!" 9 of 10.

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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A teenager with a death wish.

9/10
Author: lost-in-limbo from the Mad Hatter's tea party.
22 September 2008

Eighties teen films, I love 'em. I never tire of this brand of entertainment that's a true product of it pop-culture times. There's something about this wonderful era. Everything about the humour had a natural build up, and even during the hits or misses it stayed consistently amusing without resorting to gross-outs. 'Better off Dead' fits that buck. Here's another cherished coming of age story through the eyes of a troubled teenager dealing with a dumped relationship and the embarrassments that seem to follow through the painful years of high school and everyday life. Wallowing in self-pity, eventually it comes to identifying self-confidence over what isn't the impossible. What am I going to type that someone hasn't already. Nothing. The plot is secondary to the oddball episodic set-pieces and comic characters, where the flow is unpredictable and original like out of some daydreaming teenager's imagination. John Cusack (a pin-up boy for these roles) has that likable, down-to-earth awe which fits. Surrounding him is a fantastically hearty support cast in David Ogden Stiers, Kim Darby, Diane Franklin, Demian Slade, Amanda Wyss, Curtis Armstrong, Dan Schneider and Laura Waterbury. Director Savage Steve Holland throws caution to the wind with his animatedly interesting style, but manages to make sure everything still comes together without really trying. Well it looks so. Visual gags also have a powerful note like the night-time chase sequence involving a persistent paperboy after his 2 dollars and the drag racing scenes with a pair of Asians. Even the ski scenes are well shot. An upbeat soundtrack pounds out the catchy, nostalgic tunes and cements an provocatively charming sincereness. It's hard to pass up this self-knowing, off-kilter teenage comedy/romance winner.

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13 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Suicide Is A Question You Don't Wanna Answer

Author: Chrysanthepop from Fraggle Rock
15 August 2008

Savage Steve Holland's sensational 'Better Off Dead...' is another one of my favourite teen films. I had seen this movie decades ago but didn't catch the name. I've been looking for the nameless film for years and only recently I found out the title and got it immediately.

Ah, the nostalgic 80s when kids knew how to be young rather than spend their days on the cellphone or behind the computer. The film delightfully spoofs those teen angst movies that were so popular at the time. Lane's ex-girlfriend giving him an excuse that she dumped him for someone better looking and more popular, Lanes failed suicide attempts, Lanes cartoons are among some of the most amusing sequences.

Holland gives the film a unique treatment. 'Better Off Dead...' has an innovative quality that makes it one of a kind. It includes the adorable claymated romantic Hamburgers, cartoons, a stalking paperboy, a ski competition on one leg, a little brother who's a silent genius and an international language. Holland put a lot of heart in the writing and some of the lines had me rolling on the floor laughing.

The acting is splendid. The character Lane seems tailor-made for John Cusack. I've always thought of Cusack as an underrated actor and 'Better Off Dead...' is one of the few movies that does justice to his talents (even though this is perhaps one of his first roles). A vivacious Diane Franklin is supercute and she has the loveliest smile. The chemistry between her and Cusack is undeniable and both have excellent comic timing. David Ogden Stiers and Kim Darby are hilarious as the nutty parents. Curtis Armstrong provides some morbidly funny moments.

To say it in one sentence, 'Better Off Dead...' is one of the rarest examples of teen movies at its best. It already is a classic and while many of us watch it for nostalgic reasons, others may like it simply for the heart and humour.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Language Lessons

7/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
4 September 2016

The teenager Lane Meyer (John Cusack) has a crush on his girlfriend Beth Truss (Amanda Wyss). When Beth dumps him to stay with the successful skier Roy Stalin (Aaron Dozier), Lane is depressed and decides to commit suicide. However he gives up and tries to improve his skill of skier to ski the dangerous K12 slope to impress Beth. Meanwhile his neighbor Mrs. Smith (Laura Waterbury) receives the exchange French student Monique Junot (Diane Franklin) and her fat son Ricky Smith (Daniel Schneider) considers Monique his girlfriend; however, Monique has an unrequited crush on Lane that does not note her. When Lane stumbles upon Monique in a high-school party, he befriends her. The upset Lane challenges Roy in a competition on the K12 slope but then he regrets. However Monique is a great mechanic and skier, and fix Lane's Camaro and teaches him how to ski the K12 slope. What will happen to Lane?

"Better off Dead" is a cute romantic comedy even thirty-one years later. The story is funny and there are hilarious situations. Further this film has not aged and entertains. Maybe the greatest difference is that in the viewer that enjoyed this cult-movie in 1985 now is able to understand much more Lane's father attitudes. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Minha Vida é um Desastre" ("My Life Is a Disaster")

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