I barely remember hearing about Very Bad Things when it came out back in ’98. It looked a little odd, but it did have a few redeeming attributes: namely Cameron Diaz and Christian Slater.
I still put it off though, not even renting it, until a friend of ours let us borrow her copy. Since I was going to be able to see it for free, I couldn’t pass it down, and decided to finally give Very Bad Things it’s shot. Would it be any good, or would the movie be one of the Very Bad Things?
The characters all seem eager to fulfill their roles in this film. I’m not sure why, since it came out with little fanfare, but luckily for us viewers, they gave it a good shot anyway. Christian Slater, surprisingly, is basically the bad guy of the group, instead of the hero role he usually plays (in fact, the only other bad guy Slater movie I remember is Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) – and he was basically just jealous, not really bad in that flick either). It’s quite a switch for him, and he really seems to relish the role.
After all these years of playing the good guy, here’s a role he can really take out his frustrations in. He goes after it with a gusto we aren’t used to seeing from him, and really gets into his character. It’s great to see Slater acting the bad guy, and it makes the viewer wish for more of these roles for him.
The other characters also play their parts well. Favreau, in his usual dopey-eyed good-guy-who-has-been-mislead role, and Piven, with his on-the-edge personality, are both used to full advantage. Stern, who first came to fame as the voice-over for “The Wonder Years” (TV), stays his pretty typical semi-incompetent self, but the film tries to use that to it’s full advantage. Orser, who I haven’t seen much of before, manages to stay up with the rest of these (by now) seasoned actors with ease, while managing to separate himself as an individual entity of the group.
Cameron Diaz and Jeanne Tripplehorn aren’t in as many scenes (with Diaz as Favreau’s wife and Tripplehorn as Stern’s wife), but both play a crucial part in the plot. They manage to hold up their scenes as well, with Diaz doing an impressive job of showing what she’s going through, especially near the end of the film.
The plot, while incredibly morbid, also turns out to be surprisingly hilarious. It’s a strange combination that most movies don’t try for but, for a number of reasons, it works very well in Very Bad Things.
The characters all have depth and aren’t just 2-dimensional cardboard cutouts like most comedy characters. They have a depth that’s shown clearly throughout the film, and each character is given his or her own unique personality. It’s surprising to see in a comedy, as I said, but it make one wish more comedies should have such real characters. Even when their actions seem extreme, you can follow the thought process behind each character and know why they choose the course that they do. And it’s not just a simple reason, either – it’s complex and different for each individual. This film really manages to bring the characters to life.
The end does degenerate itself a little, backing up the morbid story with a moral of it’s own, which seems a bit heavy-handed. But then again, maybe it’s just because the characters become so real throughout the film that you begin to almost relate to them – albeit behind an “I’d never do that!” screen.
Very Bad Things is somewhat disturbing (so no little kids to this pic), but, in the next scene, incredibly funny. They could have easily turned the whole thing into just another drama, but they decided to take the difficult route, and turn this morbid tale into a comedy. Thankfully, it works, and Very Bad Things is much better for it.
Worth a rental, but probably not worth watching more than a couple of times. It definitely won’t stand up to repeat viewings (After you see the ending, the whole movie takes on a different tint, making it much less enjoyable), but that first viewing will definitely be worth a couple of bucks.
Very Bad Things, the first time around, is a Pretty Good Thing.