Better Off Dead... (1985) Poster

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Classic 80's Movie Must See
gurks734 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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Bizarre. But disarmingly so.
pleiades1018 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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The ultimate teen angst flick!
Tim Rollins23 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 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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Truly, a sight to behold!
Dan Grant26 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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Blurred Realities
jldmp115 February 2006 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'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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Everybody Wants Some....
Kris Earle10 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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Suicide Is A Question You Don't Wanna Answer
Chrysanthepop15 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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A teenager with a death wish.
mylimbo22 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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I've watched this film about 7 times and I'm no dummy!
Syl17 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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Better Off Dead Best Describes this Film *
edwagreen15 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Outlandish film where John Cusack, at age 18, is despondent over the loss of his girlfriend and even tries to end it all.

To say that the family is dysfunctional is to put it mildly. David Ogden Stiers provides some funny moments but Kim Darby, who was 38, at the time of the movie, is totally miscast as the mother. Her being so naive doesn't help her cause.

We have a French exchange student living across the street from Cusack. She is staying with a boy who reminded me of Josh Mostel and a mother similar to Lainie Kazan.

Naturally, we have the bully who took Cusack's original gal pal away. There will be an ultimate challenge by the two in the skiing finale.

The oriental man doing an impression of the late Howard Cosell is hilarious.

The picture lacks credibility and is most inane at times.
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Language Lessons
Claudio Carvalho4 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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Better off without it
I can't believe how many people like this movie. It's cartoony fluff about shallow rich kids who like to ski. The main character (Lane) wants to kill himself because his girlfriend broke up with him. He eventually gets over it and falls in love with the first girl who is nice to him.

Although Lane and his family seem to have more money than God (he has a huge walk-in closet on top of everything else), they somehow can't afford to pay the evil paperboy two dollars. The paperboy then stalks Lane throughout the movie which is just one of the many things that lowers the quality to the level of a second-rate Saturday morning kiddy show.

If you're a not-too-bright, upper-middle class ten or eleven year old kid, you'll probably love this movie and laugh until you wet yourself. But, if you hate trivial movies that contain silly chase scenes, lame car crashes, idiotic daydreams, and unbelievable situations that the director seems to think are ever-so-wacky, you'll want to avoid this movie.

If you like wacky movies, but don't want your intelligence insulted too much, try "Weird Science." Lots of crazy stuff happens in that movie, but it's a thousand times more believable because of the premise.
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Have You All Gone Mad?
BloodTheTelepathicDog7 March 2010
The IMDb user rating seems a bit excessive. Now, I like John Cusack (he was great in Grosse Pointe Blank and Eight Men Out) and I enjoy teen comedies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but this flick is about as bad as a movie can get. A dark comedy with very little edge and even less laughter, this was one of the biggest disappointments I have seen in recent memory. Now I know why it was listed for one cent on

The story concerns high schooler Cusack whose girlfriend, played by Amanda Wyss (Shakma) leaves him for a boorish jock. The film's title come from Cusack believing himself to be better off dead than minus Amanda Wyss. So, he tries to commit suicide (he really doesn't, his foolish attempts only give credence to the fact that he can't score at anything) a couple times during the film. Savage Steve Holland tries to coax laughs out of an eccentric family, Cusack's best pal that snorts snow and a deranged newspaper boy demanding his money. It's films like this that give teen comedies a bad name.

STORY: $$$ (There was plenty room here for Holland to give his viewers the goods but his writing skills are wanting to say the least. He fails to build any sort darkness out of John Cusack's character making his suicidal sojourns pointless and flat. Holland was dealt a hanging curveball and popped the darn thing up).

ACTING: $$ (Rather weak here as well. Genre favorites Curtis Armstrong, Vincent Schiavelli and Amanda Wyss do their thing and try to give this some substance but fail. Cusack is far better in other films and David Ogden Steirs is wasted as John's father).

SEXUALITY: $ (Little of note here. The sexy Tina Littlewood is accidentally stripped in the school cafeteria and blushes in her underwear).
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Better Off...before I ever watched it
s k12 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a poor man's (or woman's) version of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, or Fast Times At Ridgemount High -- without the humor, heart, soul, charm, music, screen chemistry, or creativity of those films. It's a sophomoric attempt, at best, to display high school heartache, that fails miserably.

There is not a single solitary likable character (with the possible exception of Monique); and I use the term character rather loosely when it comes to this disaster. The so-called characters are less dimensional than cartoon characters. In fact, I've seen Saturday morning cartoons that are better than this. (Hint: Beep-Beep) As such, there is no empathy evoked for any of them. Just the opposite -- I felt nothing but contempt and disdain for the characters, the writers, and the director.

Coupled with the fact that the humor is Neanderthal-like (i.e. slipping on a banana peel), this apparent spoof is nothing but a colossal flop. It strains the mind trying to grasp how in the world this movie rates as high as it does on IMDb.
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An Extremely Overrated Piece of Crap!
BaileySEA14 February 2014
I never saw this when it came out in 1985, it seemed lame at the time. And now at long last it is every bit as lame as I thought it was. In the years since it's release I've read accounts of how funny this movie is. It is low budget crap that is one lame scene after another. John Cusack was a relatively new actor on the scene when he starred in this turkey. So I can understand how he took any role he could get in his salad years. The demure Diane Franklin was a favorite of mine at the time. She is seriously underused here. David Ogden Stiers and Kim Darby seem brain dead in this outlandish farce. This movie makes a case for why bad screenwriters exist.
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Better Off Watching again and again
diskomboabulated2 April 2004
Sitting in my flat one night restless and unable to sleep, I decided to watch Better off Dead, a film I had not seen since my carefree days as a Youth in the glorious 80's. Well I'm glad I did! Better Off Dead Is without doubt one of the funniest films ever made, from the moment Lane's Mother accidentally. nearly hangs him while she is hovering, I was hooked. This film manages to capture everything that was good and bad about your Teenage years in the 80's in a very. very funny way. Bizarre as they are I can Relate to all of Lane's situations and problems from the Cotton Buds scene to the trouble your first love brings. There are so many scenes and quotes from this film that had me laughing and I still laugh at them after numerous viewings 'It gets Better the more you watch it' All the characters in the film are Hilarious from Lane's family his wacky neighbours Ricky and his Mom. I don't want to spoil the film for anyone by saying anymore except just watch it and enjoy... And then watch again and you too will be hooked... Here is some of my favourite quotes 'Come on my little Buckaroo', "Gee, I'm sorry your mom blew up Ricky ... guess she'll have to lay off the Spicy foods for a while", 'Buck up little camper, we'll beat that slope Together', "Right Off", " Do you have any idea what the street value Is of this mountain", "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through Life, son, 'Everybody will be wearing one', "A got it for my Christmas' .. Ps ... I never slept all night due to laughing and watching twice.
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Half bizarre and half straight teen comedy but one you remember
policy1344 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The 80's was full of rather bland teen comedies such as Pretty in Pink and the dreadful Revenge of the Nerds series. Here we get one of the nerds, Curtis Armstrong but i suspect that he was merely in this movie to give it some clout, as the lead John Cusack wasn't really a household name yet. When you look at the movie Curtis Armstrong's screen time doesn't even amount to 5 minutes.

The rest of the movie is sort of interesting because of the style of the first half which is kind of offbeat considering that Cusack's character, Lane is ten times more realistic than the rest of the characters. His mother, who cooks rather disgusting meals belongs in some kind of 50's sitcom and almost all her lines are written like she is talking to herself and not interacting with anybody else. And who could forget that pesky little paperboy who keeps showing up and demanding 2 dollars. That scene has almost been parodied to death on various spoofs through the 90's and 00's.

The director, Savage Steve Holland, did not have a prolific career but you certainly can't deny that he made some movies out of the ordinary and I am glad that I can remember this as being one of the more satisfying experiences at the movies because usually 80's movies were extremely formulated. John Cusack may not have been a official member of what was known as the Brat Pack and this film certainly is a notch below the Breakfast Club. However, since he succeeded where they failed, I doubt that he lost much sleep over it.
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Booger Hath I Loved. (spoilers)
Pepper Anne19 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I picked up this movie to see my favorite 80s comedy actor, Curtis Armstrong who is probably best known for his role as Booger in 'Revenge of the Nerds' or Miles in 'Risky Business.' He's just as good here as the 6-year high school senior and Lane Meyer's friend Charels.

Better Off Dead, sister movie of One Crazy Summer, is one hell of an oddball film for the 80s teen category. It is a mix of strange humor, animated sequences (drawn by writer/director Savage Steve Holland), and a loveable star, to pull off quite an entertaining, and hopefully not too obscure, 80s teen comedy.

John Cusak is his typical outrageous teenager character in his role as Lane Meyer, the same type of character we saw in One Crazy Summer, Hot Pursuit, and others; the one where he is always a regular nice guy who somehow gets caught up in unforseen crazy situations. But Better Off Dead offers the most off-the-wall atmosphere for such a seemingly level-headed kid.

Lane Meyer is a young guy who's long time girlfriend, Beth (Amanda Wyss), breaks up with him. Lane is crushed and isn't quite sure whether he can deal with the problem (even contemplating suicide until he realizes he has not yet even visited New York). Beth has taken up with Lane's blonde macho nemesis, Roy (Aaron Dozier) (who's character is quite similar to Cusak's nemesis character in One Crazy Summer). As guys typically do in these movies to compete for a girl's heart, Lane is going to race Roy in the dangerous K-12 run (there is a joke in the measurement of the slope because 9 is actually the highest and hardest slope rating). But, Lane is in over his head and seems nowhere near ready for such a dangerous slope. But, since things have gone pretty lousy for Lane since breaking up with Beth, what's he got to lose? The tag line ''re Better Off Dead' is quite right for Lane. It seems like for a while, everything is disastorous for Lane such as always losing the race to the two Japanese brothers who mimic Howard Cossell; the date with the girl who just suggests that Lane give her the money that a date would've cost and spare them both the agony of pretending to enjoy each other's company; or when everybody in the school, including Lane's geometry teacher, keeps asking Lane if it's alright if they ask Beth for her number).

But things get better when a French exchange student, Monique, moves in next door with a fat mama's boy (Dan Schneider as Ricky) and his obnoxious mom who make her stay in America literally a living hell. So, she and Lane Meyer soon enough become friends and maybe life without Beth just isn't so bad for Lane Meyer after all.

The movie is great ("Valley Girl's" E.G. Daily plays at the school dance!), and a completely different kind of 80s teen movies, one that should be in a category by itself, because the things that go on around Lane are so weird. For example, Lane's little brother Badger (Scooter Stevens), who has no speaking lines in this movie, spends the entire film cutting off those little sweepstakes mailers from various household food boxes and mailing them in to get stuff, particularly supplies needed to build himself a rocket (really). In another example, you'll notice that the filming locations used for the slope sequences in which the entire city appears to be covered in a blanket of snow is much different from the sunny, dry climate of the locations where Lane is at school or at home or anywhere but the slope. The Nine Lives song, Paperboy, makes the reference to the running gag of the paperboy in the movie who keeps hassling Lane for his two dollars. "Where's my two dollars?" repeats the kid with a paperboy posse. It subtle and unsubtle humor.

If you like this movie, try Holland's One Crazy Summer, which came out a few years later, starring Cusak (again) and Demi Moore and Bobcat Goldwaith, among others. It is just as bizarre and funny.
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Funny movie!
grahamsj320 December 2002
This one's hilarious! My family have borrowed several lines from this film and use them as inside jokes. John Cusak stars in this film about a teenager whose girlfriend dumps him for the Captain of the ski team. The film has enough skiing in it to satisfy most ski buffs, but it's not really about skiing. It's about relationships more than anything and the results are absolutely hilarious. This is destined to be a classic and it's a permanent part of my film library.
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A Stellar Disappointment
jethomas-14 May 2002
This movie did a spectacular job of failing to live up to my expectations. It just wasn't that funny. At all. Perhaps three lines were funny, but they didn't exactly redeem the mess in between them. Maybe I'm old-fashioned in my desire for a cohesive narrative structure, but even the South Park spoof of this movie had a more coherent plot. Making fun of fat people and those with headgear, sniffing strange substances, and obsessing over sex all come together in a relatively successful 80s triumvirate of banality. Save your $1.67 and rent The Bad Seed instead. It's much funnier, and it doesn't even try.
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Not a very good John Cusack movie!!
Phil Jackson16 February 2005
I'm A BIG John Cusack fan; Hot Pursuit, Sure Thing, and Grosse Point Blank are 3 of my favourite all time films. So imagine my excitement at finding a Cusack film I hadn't seen, on, namely 'Better off Dead'. How disappointed can you be?? Animated burgers, weird paperboys,and freakish characters made this a film I really just wanted to end after about half an hour. The fat gimp boy is irritating, Monique's French accent is very poor, and the guy out of Moonlighting laughs too much. Cusack is fine, but the film is far too surreal in parts for my liking. If you like mental films and you take lots of drugs, this is probably for you. Unfortunately, I don't. At least it only cost me £7.95!!
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80s quirkfest that never really works
zetes20 February 2011
I've seen bits of this before, and it always seemed amusing. Watching it in whole, though, I was very unimpressed. It has a very unique and quirky sense of humor, but, in my opinion, it hardly ever works. John Cusack plays a teen whose super cute and popular girlfriend dumps him for a jock. He spends the rest of the movie moping while cute French exchange student Diane Franklin starts to fall for him. The movie tries to set itself apart from the John Hughes comedies with its oddness, but in reality it reinforces the same stereotypes that every other 80s teen comedy does. Some of the cast is amusing, especially fat dork neighbor Dan Schneider, whose mother hosts Franklin almost as if she's ordering a male order bride for her social outcast son, and Kim Darby as Cusack's spaced-out mom. Curtis Armstrong pretty much reprises his role as Booger from Revenge of the Nerds as Cusack's best friend. I barely laughed at all during the flick. Even stuff that seemed amusing wasn't doing anything for me. I've seen Holland and Cusack's followup film, One Crazy Summer, and I remember liking that one better.
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For fans of absurd humor and silly 80's teen comedies.
Idolprincess16 June 2004
This is one of my favorite movies of all time. I admit I'm a huge fan of 80's comedies, and that probably affects my judgement as I write this. However, this movie wasn't the typical 80's comedy at all. I'll explain myself.

This comedy has a very particular, absurd humor. Unlike a lot of comedies that were made in the late 80's and early 90's, it's not a rip-off or a bad version of something that was made in the early 80's. However, it's not a type of humor that anyone can enjoy. But if you do enjoy it, you'll love this movie and it can easily become one of your favorite. The strange family of the main character and the main character himself played by John Cusack are extremely amusing and funny.

It's seen as a teen movie by a lot of people, but I personally don't think it is. It's an unique genre, but it's also easy to wonder if it's a parody of the typical 80's teen movies. If it is a parody, it's a lot easier to understand the typical cheesy ski film aspect of the movie and the romance with the exchange student. But if it's not, then the movie would be separated into a horrible cheesy teen movie and a hilarious comedy. This is what is so strange about it. The typical 80's love story really doesn't work in this movie because of how goofy it is.

I prefer believing it's a parody, and it probably is. Basically, I think this is a very enjoyable fun movie that no one can possibly hate. Specially if you're a fan of absurd humor and the 80's.
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Top quality 80's comedy
The_Void6 April 2005
The 80's were a great time for films. Though much of what came out of the decade is now considered stupid kitsch and not worth much, some of the films remain a really good time and it's refreshing to see a movie that never takes itself seriously in this day and age; when there seems to be an unwelcome feeling that only A-grade material can truly be accepted. Better off Dead is a surreal and inventive comedy from a man calling himself 'Savage Steve Holland', that depicts teen life. Better Off Dead can be summed up as a series of genius ideas strung together around one young man's ordeal after splitting up with his girlfriend. Of course, some of the jokes are extremely lame (don't forget, it was made in the 80's), but the ones that work tend to work brilliantly and there's many funny moments in this movie. As mentioned, the plot follows Lane Meyer; a young man that is obsessed with his girlfriend. Well...until she breaks up with him because he's not popular enough, not good looking enough and doesn't drive a very nice car. And not only that, but she's left him for the captain of ski team; and he's a guy that isn't going to let Lane get away without being ribbed about it...

If I were to sum up Better Off Dead in a word, I would use the word 'odd'. How many films can you think of that includes dinner walking off the plate, someone's mother being blown up and a living hamburger that has it's own girlfriend? I wager not many. While at times the film does become a little too weird, it's absurdity helps the plot as it helps to enforce the bewilderment that being a teenager can come with; and this helps to get the film's point across. Naturally, the film features an assortment of odd and wacky characters and this is always a good thing in a film of this kind. John Cusack takes the lead role in a time before he rose to superstardom, and it's roles like these early ones that shows why he did make that transition. Cusack leads the film with great charisma and always keeps you entranced with his character. This especially helps when it comes to the more touching scenes of the movie as it enables you to feel for his character and therefore get the full benefit of the scene. While Better Off Dead wont be winning any awards, it's still a wickedly entertaining movie and if you're a fan of kitschy fun movies, you cant go wrong here.
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If you gotta see one 1980s "teen flick", this is THE one to see!
MartinHafer4 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It seems obvious that those responsible for this movie were schizophrenics. This alone can account for why the movie seems like two different films melded together AND why the humor is so bizarre and gut-bustingly funny! The biggest downside of the film is that it has so many of the dumb 80s clichés from teen films--without the main plot, the film actually would have scored a 9 or 10! The whole business about "having to ski the K-12" was just lame and got in the way of all the wonderful weirdness! My advice is to watch the film and then try to ignore all the plot--you're better off,...really.

So what was so weird about the film?! Well, apart from John Cusack, his ex-girlfriend and the "evil rival", all the other characters are almost like a combination of a normal 80s teen movie and a Salvador Dali creation! I really don't want to ruin all the many, many, many surprises, but you've got to see such things as the family's Christmas presents, the "interesting" things Lane's brother does throughout the film, the paperboy from Hell, the scene where Mrs. Smith blows up, and so many more strange bits here and there. And, most of the strange little vignettes that are irrelevant to the plot are GREAT--except for the claymation part that just seemed dull (for better claymation, see HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS).

This is inspired lunacy that unfortunately barely missed being a grand-slam because of some dull plot elements and a stupid claymation dancing hamburger. BUT, because of all the weirdness and fun, this is a wonderful film that can be enjoyed by kids or those who lived through the 80s and want to relive old times and laugh at the clothes and music!
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