Better Off Dead

Random thoughts while watching the 1985 John Cusack film, Better Off Dead

  1. How fragile was glass in the 80s that a single newspaper issue could punch a hole right through it?
  2. Lane (Cusack) showers with his (mismatched) tube socks on. And then he blow dries them. Because why?
  3. How is it that, in a very normal suburban home, a teenage boy has been granted an entire room to use as his personal closet? Especially considering said boy is the same one who showers with his socks on. Not exactly the height of sophistication.
  4. Clearly the dad is supposed to be the bad guy. He’s so grumpy! But really: his garage door is full of holes, one kid is systematically ruining his breakfast while the other has left an eyesore dragging in the driveway for months. I must be old, because now I’m feeling sorry for the dad!
  5. Lane and his girlfriend Beth have 8×10 framed photos of each other in their bedrooms. But why do the teenagers all have large, black and white head shots of themselves?
  6. Did he just attempt to street race someone blindfolded??? OF COURSE the guy he hit was mad! We’re supposed to excuse him or something? Lane is a horrible human being! I don’t know if HE’s better off dead, but I’m starting to suspect that everyone else would be (better off without him, that is).

7. Why does everything the mom makes turn out green?

8. I’m not sure which is more disturbing: that the almost 8 year old, cereal loving little brother has leopard print loungewear, or that he seems to be retrofitting toys into real weapons.

9. The script is so bad, Lane has to constantly narrate his stream of consciousness out loud so we know how deeply saddened by his girlfriend of 6 whole months (the aforementioned Beth) dumping him for the hunky new ski fiend. As if the suicide attempts weren’t doing it for us.

10. The paperboy is such a little punk. But do you remember paper boys? And the little card that you’d keep track of, that they’d hole punch each week that you paid. But they’d ring the bell at random times, and always claimed you owed for 5 weeks, which somehow came up to $2.60, but of course you never had it? What a weird time in human history that that was how we got our news.

11. You know how you get up in class to solve an algebra problem at the board but then just stand there fantasizing about the night you lost your virginity in a station wagon (which is only slightly better than losing it TO a station wagon)? Yeah. No.

12. So Lane attempts to take up roller skating to impress a girl (white guys, amirite?) and somehow manages to accidentally tear all the clothes off a cheerleader, who just happens to be wearing a matching set of lingerie under her uniform. As teenager girls do. Obviously.

13. Lane skis in a variety of Bill Cosby sweaters which makes no sense. But still makes slightly more sense than his buddy who complains about not being able to get real drugs in this small town, and yet he somehow procured a top hat in which to ski.

14. Three suicide attempts later, the movie has made 0 mentions of mental health, and Lane’s parents address the situation by a) telling him to “mellow off” and b) forcing him to go on a date with a girl of their choosing against his will. Yes, I’m as surprised as you are that this method of treatment seems to have not really caught on.

15. Did any of your high school dances have live bands?

16. There’s a claymation interlude of a hamburger singing Van Halen’s Everybody Wants Some. It is very bad but still a welcome break in the actual movie.

17. I can’t believe that a French teenager came all the way to America for an exchange semester, and in her 2 allotted suitcases for 6 months, she packed a coverall. Suspicious.

18. Oh he’s legit going to try to seduce her with a saxophone? A SAXOPHONE IS NOT AND WILL NEVER BE AN ACOUSTIC GUITAR, LANE.

19. They take turns skiing under each other’s crotches. Can this possibly be interpreted as romantic?

20. In what I can assure you is an extremely lame showdown, Lane proposes a ski-off to his bully. And despite being the vastly inferior skier, AND having only one ski, AND being relentlessly pursued by the paperboy, he somehow wins. Somehow.

21. But that’s not even half as lame as when he uses the poles to duel his loser neighbour, and then throws the french exchange student over his shoulder when he wins her. Ahem.

22. And then he parks his Camaro on a baseball diamond and makes out with her??? Ladies and gentlemen: peak American obnoxiousness.

23. John Cusack has only ever seen the first 20 minutes of this movie because he walked out, embarrassed and furious at the director. I watched all 97, but can assure you that even 20 is too many.

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33 thoughts on “Better Off Dead

  1. Clever Girl

    omg, is that really true about Cusack walking out of the movie? I’ve never seen this particular one, although I was a big fan of Cusack in the 80s. He was in everything.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, he was disgusted with the director and vowed to never work with him again…unfortunately, they were literally in the middle of shooting a second movie together, so Cusack stuck it out to be professional and hasn’t worked with him since.

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  2. Reely, Bernie?

    Thanks for the Cusack trip down memory lane, Jay! It’s funny: When I worked at Blockbuster Video, this movie was a consistent rental (I remember having to rewind it and put it back on the shelf every two weeks), and when it was hip to watch 80s movies then, I just didn’t get the hype or the humor of this one either. That was in 2001. It’s funny that the lack of connection still rings true today, almost 20 years later. Thanks for the forewarning 🙂

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, I think Cusack’s name means a lot when it comes to 80s movies. I bet a lot of people were disappointed with this rental!
      I love and am kind of jealous that you worked at Blockbuster.

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      1. Reely Bernie

        I miss those days very much. The irony is that while I was working there, customers kept telling me I looked like John Cusack! The dude was everything back then… Keep up the good work! I was considering your incredible upcoming film festival – Fantasia – but there’s too many schedule conflicts. Maybe next year…

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  3. Wendell Ottley

    Wow. I just recently bought this on Blu Ray because it was 2 bucks and I loved it back when it came out. I was only 14. Haven’t yet revisited but now feel like I have to very soon to see how I feel about it as a grown-up. Is it really that bad? Guess I know what I’ll be watching this weekend.

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  4. ninvoid99

    Wow…. I actually liked this movie. It’s so hilarious. It’s a shame that Dan Schneider turned out to be even more creepier in real life than he actually is in that film.

    Plus, I felt so sorry for Curtis Armstrong’s character. Cusack’s dad is worried that his son is on drugs yet there aren’t any drugs available which is sad considering that Armstrong’s character needed it. Snorting Jello… what the fuck?

    If anyone here doesn’t like Van Halen during the David Lee Roth era (unless you prefer Sammy which I’m cool with), I’m taking you fuckers to wood shop class.

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  5. Robyn

    OH MY GOSH – okay, so really – another blogger today was talking about a new squirrel in his yard that he named Ricky. And my mind goes right to the Better Off Dead Ricky. Right into “Fronch Fries” and “Fronch Dressing” and THEN – “woah, there was a whole movie about a guy trying to kill himself – RIGHT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE – and no one ever did anything to help him. What kind of crazy movie was this that I used to watch ALL THE TIME and never gave the whole suicide piece a second thought? Crazy to see this here today and I love all your points. I forgot about the paperboy. I have a feeling I am going to be walking around the hoes tonight demanding $2 from everyone

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    1. Jay Post author

      Ha! I love how the neighbour is actually impressed with the FRONCH dressing! So fancy!

      This is hilarious and I’m glad to be part of your coincidence.

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  6. Liz A.

    And yet, I still love this stupid movie. There’s just something so silly about that paperboy. Why is he chasing Lane? Doesn’t the dad pay for the newspaper?

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. tubularsock

    Wow. That sounds so bad that it could be good in a bad kind of a way.
    Might have to go find it ……….. but Tubularsock hates to leave his bunker, so I’ll see.
    BUT jay ………. you warned Tubularsock!

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      1. observationblogger

        You made me laugh. I had totally forgotten about this movie until I read your post and I immediately remembered how much I loved it. There is another one he did in that era called ‘The Sure Thing’ which I must watch again as well. Thank you for the long overdue reminders! Hehe

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  8. Willow Croft

    “I gave her my heart, and she gave me a pen.” “The world has enough guys; be a man.” “You’re a distraction./Yes, sir, but I’m the distraction going with her to England, sir.” (Probably horribly mangling the quotes, but I wanted to just write them off the cuff.)

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