Director: Joe Dante
Stars: Alexandra Daddario, Ashley Greene, Anton Yelchin
“It’s political correctness gone mad,” they’ll say. Maybe. If, when I say ‘they’, it turns out that there actually are people out there who’ve a) read this review and also b) watched this film, and then c) liked it and therefore d) disagree with me.
“It’s political correctness gone mad,” those people will say, nearly choking on the corn snack foods they shovel into their filthy mouths with a hand more like a shovel than Keira Knightly’s upside-down face, as they cycle through streamable porn menus on the clammy iPhone clasped in their other grimy paw. “Why can’t we just enjoy things anymore? What’s wrong with just a few harmless laughs? Doesn’t anyone have a sense of humour these days?”
And you might think that they, these mythical wretches, have a point sometimes. But I challenge you to watch Joe Dante’s Burying The Ex and not feel crushingly ashamed and regretful, ashamed for everyone involved in this joyless fiasco, and regretful for the 90 minutes of your life that you’re never going to be getting back.
Because this isn’t OK. Dante’s latest film is a death knell for the recent run of zombie romcoms, a subgenre which has lurched awkwardly through indie horror of late with very little charm. Here it face-plants, shattering into lifeless pieces. And it does so thanks to a woefully chauvinistic script that would’ve seemed outdated in the 60’s. Make no mistake, the blame lands squarely at the feet of screenwriter Alan Trezza, who presumably thinks everything here is fine, but you can’t help but wonder if really nobody else involved had an issue with this movie’s sheer ugliness, with its crass, intelligence-insulting generalities, with its constant, embarrassing redundancy. Guess this was a take-the-money-and-run job for everyone involved. You’d hope so. You wouldn’t want anyone to be sincerely proud of it.
That goes for amiable leading man Anton Yelchin, throwing in a part-way spirited turn as Max, the gutless nerd we’re supposed to feel for in this picture. It goes for rising star Alexandra Daddario playing his simpatico love-interest-to-be Olivia. So too for Oliver Cooper as Max’s unbelievable shitheel of a half-brother Travis, and most of all for Ashley Greene, hampered with the cringe-worthy punishment of playing Max’s mean, snappy vegan blogger girlfriend Evelyn, a creation so staggeringly sexist that you wonder how they got anyone to bite for the role at all.
But especially, one hopes, it applies to Joe Dante. This one hurts to slate, it really does, because I grew up with Dante’s classics. From The Howling to The ‘Burbs via Innerspace and the Gremlins movies, there was a time there when Dante could do no wrong in my eyes. But that period ended a quarter of a century ago. Since then there’s been sadly little of his former greatness on screen. Grimly, on this evidence, his wily knack for great material has either been cashed in or completely ignored. Because Burying The Ex is dreadful.
Max works at ghoulish novelty store and grammatical irritant Bloody Marys BOOtique, with dreams of one day owning his own variant named Scare Shack. His hectoring girlfriend Evelyn one day buys it getting hit by a bus, leaving Max the potential to have the life he actually wants without the ol’ nagging ball’n’chain around (a woman he seems to go out with because she’s hot and likes sex but with whom he has nothing remotely in common). Yet, because of a promise to always stay together made in front of a Satanic genie statue, Evelyn is resurrected as a zombie, much to Max’s dismay.
This means he can’t get it on with Olivia, an ostensibly nice, reasonable person who works at a novelty ice cream emporium, the kind of place They Came Together already lambasted as the weariest of ‘cute’ pop writing clichés. Perpetually hovering around this threesome is Travis, who likes to ‘bang’ ‘chicks’ and ‘MILFs’, ‘bro’, so long as he’s logged into his Tinder account. And… that’s your movie. Max either whining about his nagging girlfriend for not understanding him or shrugging sheepishly at his ‘cooler’ crush, while Travis shags or masturbates his way through the peripheries reminding you that things can always be a lot more awful.
The dialogue is either snore-worthy or pure gutter trash, the pace aimless and plodding,while the whole tone enhances the suspicion that no-one involved really gave a shit how this all turned out anyhow. But worst of all is the degrading, outmoded stereotypes fulfilled by needy ‘bitch’ girlfriend Evelyn. The audience is supposed to hate her simply for existing and then, thanks to the film’s charmless mcguffin, for continuing to do so in spite of violent death. Travis’ off the cuff misogyny backs up the sense that this movie doesn’t really like women at all actually, unless, that is, they’re in the compliant form of a daydream ideal. Anything more challenging or confrontational than that – anything that defies Max and Travis’ borderline arrested development – is simply unacceptable and should therefore be vilified or mocked. It goes a long way toward making this feel like a hot contender for the worst film of the year.
“It’s political correctness gone mad,” you might scoff at such a reaction, and maybe I need to “lighten up” and “have a little fun”. But where’s your evidence that this is anything but a vile mistake for all concerned? I’d love to lighten up. I’d love to have a little fun. Those things sound great. But I certainly won’t be doing so in the company of this contemptible pusshole of a movie, which seemingly exists solely to remind me how great Dante used to be, and how heart-wrenching it is to write bad things about his present form.
It was only a month ago I was writing about how Gremlins 2: The New Batch is one of the great, underrated movies of its time. Admittedly that time was 1990, but still. What the fuck happened?