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October 30, 1985 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1985-10-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

'Better Off

Dead'

The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, October 30, 1985- Page 7
comes to life

ByRuth Ann Weadock
I N A WAY, Better Off Dead is a
movie that could easily live up to
its title. It is riddled with too many
stereotypes and an utterly predictable
plot. Filling in the gaps, however, is
the delightfully entertaining John
Cusak as Lane Myer, a "not-quite-
normal" high school guy (presumably
a senior, but when do movie
highschool kids ever look their
ages?).
Let's wade through the movie's
problems. Yes, Lane's parents are
supposed to be "not-quite-normal"
(where else would the kids get it
from?), but the caricature is carried
past the point of comedic effec-
tiveness when Mom's awful
meals/concoctions squirm off Lane's
plate, or, in another case, flail their
tentacles from out of the huge pot
she's stirring.
Though the mother's character is
the type to buy TV dinners and wrap
them as Christmas presents for her
family, this does not entail the in-
curable streak of meekness that Kim
Darby seems to relish in playing the
role. The subservient housewife Jen-
ny is always apologetic and helpless
at the mercy of the chaotic world
around her.
Al Myer played by David Ogden
Stiers is merely bewildered. He is a

frustrated man; his younger son cuts
out the sides of the cereal boxes
(every one) and all the contents fall
out when Al wants some breakfast.
Every morning the paperboy gives
him nightmares of garage windows
broken by newspaper missiles -
which in turn jolt him awake causing
him to run down and open the door
before the little demon arrives.
But Stiers overacts the father's
cynicism. Laboriously down-playing
the well-known Boston accent, he
creates, for the most part, a listless,
almost whining bore who stresses the
"ooh" sound too much in words like
"school" and "ritual."
Concerning the plot: Goofy boy
stumblingly meets gorgeous, class-
conscious blonde. They go out. Girl
eventually drops boy for ski team cap-
tain. Depressed boy meets introspec-
tive and inspirational brunette. Boy
gains new confidence and overcomes
his Problem(s).
The above reveals nothing that the
average viewer of average
moviegoing experience could not
foresee in the first 15 minutes of the
film.
Surprisingly, two redeeming
elements of Better Off Dead effec-
tively shellack its flaws: Not quite a
member of the Brat Pack, though he
was featured in both Class and Six-
teen Candles and had the lead in The

Sure Thing, John Cusak manages to
evade pretty-boy trappings and
ultimately delivers a credible per-
formance. It is not easy to be really
funny if your scene calls for brushing
your teeth while poking Q-tips into
your ears, nose, and mouth. Cusak
knows how to affect a subtle charm;
in this case it's through an otherwise
insignificant hand-wave of greeting to
his father who unfortunately decides
to check on his son.
Director Savage Steve Holland is
also largely responsible for saving
this movie. By the time the audience
begins to see the absurdity of a
situation, the camera has cut to
another equally off-the-wall incident.
This quick pacing nudges the action
just ahead of the viewer's laugh,
creating an almost Blues Brothers
comic genius.
Don't look for new revelations on
the universal trials and tribulations of
growing up and falling in love in Bet-
ter Off Dead. This is a featherweight
film but it tickles your funnybone.
UACISOUNDSTAGE,
together with the NESTLE Corp.
present a
HALLOWEEN
DANCE BASH
with
THEDETROIT PANIC
9 P.M., Oct. 31, 1985
U-Club, Michigan Union
Come in costume... if you dare!
Substantial prizes to be awarded
The university club is a pnate
club for students, faculty, staff.
aluni, and thteir accompanied
guests. Only members may
purchase alcohol.

This is the typical American family as portrayed in 'Better Off Dead.' It stars David Ogden Stiers and John
Cusak.

Records
Big Audio Dynamite - This
is Big Audio Dynamite
(CBS)
Joe Strummer and his orange
mohawk better watchout 'cause Bad
Ass Mick Jones and his band of dread-
locked gangsters have pulled into
town and they're BAD as hell.
They call themselves Big Audio
Dynamite, and their debut LP, This is
Big Audio Dynamite is full of those
funk and reggae rhythms which
Strummer accused Jones of polluting
the Clash with. However, the reggae
and funk sounds of B.A.D. are quite
differenet from those offered by the
Clash. This reggae doesn't have the
raw edge that the Clash reggae had.
Mainly it doesn't have Joe Strum-
mer's grating voice, which is about as
smooth as sandpaper.
Also, for the most part, B.A.D. shys
away from the pounding drums, and
booming and scratchy guitars of the
Clash - which were so evident in
songs like "White Man in the Ham-
mersmith Palais" and their cover of
the Maytals' "pressure Drop." But
even when the Clash did songs as steel
band oriented as "Let's Go Crazy,"
Stummer's gnarly voice was always
there to remind us that the Clash was
not a reggae band.
B.A.D., however, is a reggae/funk
band. There's bongo playin', toasting,
and rapping. The brash music of the
Clash, which complemented the con-
viction of the lyrics, is absent in this
band. This doesn't moke B.A.D. bad,
just different.
B.A.D. is Mick Jones' excuse to be
Clint Eastwood. I mean, why wait un-
til Halloween. C'mon Mick, what's the
deal with that cowboy hat, the stick of
dynamite, and all that gunfire? Six
shooters and machine guns rattle on
no less than three of the album's eight
songs. Also, sound effects from The
Good the Band and the Ugly, along
with references to and voices of the 01'
West pop up all over this album. On
the album's first cut, "The Medicine
Show," a hanging judge of the wild
frontier drawls out the death sentence
to one of those black-hatted bad guys.
In "E-MC'," an English bloke asks
Jack the Lad, "Who do you think you
are? The Lone Ranger?"

The album opens with the delightful
pop-reggae "The Medicine Show."
The crisp guitars, the "Version City"
sounding harmonica, and the poppy
keyboards work together to make this
one of the ablum's most enticing cuts.
"The Bottom Line" is sort of like
the socio-economic version of "I'm
Not Down." Against a backdrop of
economic decline Mick offers some
"we shall overcome" optimism:
When you reach the bottom line
The only thing to do is climb Pick
yourself up off the floor Anything
you want is yours.
The pounding drums, clattering
drum box, and clanging guitars make
this the most uplifting song on the
album.
The anti-imperialistic "A Party" is
about as reggae as you can get. Don
Letts, Jones' new writing partner, and
his toasting drives this, and is a great
compliment to Jones' lyrics and
vocals which lash out at British ex-
ploitation of Africa:
Some things never change Cor-
porate crime gets free range Only
out for personal gain Grab the
land and seize the power
Apparently Jones is still anti-drug
as the funky "Sudden Impact"
suggests. This tune always seems on
the verge of breaking into a Herbie
Hancock song. Even the lyrics are
way Funkville: Party down - Eat
your friend...Rock the house-
Shoot your mum...
"Stone Thames," the album's best
cut, bops all over the place. Bongos,
raunchy guitars, scratch-mastery,
and classic lyrics about some of our
favorite social diseases make this
song driiiiive:
Now to sexual relations Better
take a wife Now that sex is death
Better lead a boring life No time
for social kissing You'll hardly
raise a smile When you think what
you'll be missing Iron undies back
in style.
Mick oughta send this one to Ann
Landers.
The album ends with the Run DMC
style "BAD," which is rapped out by
Letts. "BAD" is a list of things that
drive Don and Mick crazy. Clint
Eastwood pops up on this list, but

Mick can't fool me - he's a fan.
This is a Big Audio Dynamite, aside
from minor problems like oc-
casionally overdoing the sound effects
and vocal overdubs - and a couple of
decent, but far from spectacular
songs like "Sony" and "E=MC" - is
a pretty darned tasty album. In any
case pardner, this album is worth
having if for no other reason than
owning a picture of Mick Jones in a
cowboy hat while holding a stick of
dynamite.
-Danny Plotnick
Kurtis Blow - America
(Mercury)
Kurtis Blow was the first rapper I
ever heard. Way back in the late '70s
he cut a song called "The Breaks,"
which was one of the first songs to
popularize rap music. He followed it
up with "Christmas Rappin"' and
seemed, at the time, to be the
definition of the cutting edge in black
music. While most bands were tiredly
rehashing the by-then cliche funk of
bands like the Ohio Players, Blow was
inventing, and he can legitimately
claim a degree of responsibility for
the eventual popularization of rap
music.
His latest record, America, is by
contrast shockingly conservative.
Perhaps the most offensive and
disheartening example of Blow's
deterioration is the title track in.
which he swipes shamelessly from
rap hits of the past two years. Rap is
generally a medium in which ideas
are recycled, but there's no excuse for
the brazen thievery from Time Zone's
"World Destruction." There's also no
excuse for the lamest chorus of any
rap song ever, in which Blow claims
that America is his favorite country in
a voice so thin and passionless that
one suspects he may have been
lobotomized. It is unforgivably bad.
The rest of the album is filled with
forgettable underachievements. Only
"AJ is Cool," approaches respec-
tability. "Super Sperm," a brainless
exercise in synthesizer noise is
without question my nominee for wor-
st record cut of the year.
Kurtis Blow has moved from the
cutting edge of black music to tired

rehashes of works that are innovative,
but Blow is such a lousy rehasher that
he is unable to maintain even a trace
of the sparks that drew him to rehash
them.
But I sort of like the cover. It's ugly,
yet powerful in an odd way. A map of
the United States is superimposed on
stars and bars, and each of the in-
dividual States is cut from a newsy or
arty-type photograph. The selection of
photos, and the associations they
suggest are much more thought
.I
PASS
IT
AROUND!
Share the
news,

provoking than anything on the record
itself. It's gutsy, political, and in-
teresting, and it's too bad that the
cover is wasted on an artist who is
timid, apathetic, and boring.
-John Logie

I

Bird
Of
Paradise
JAZZ CLUB
The Bird of Paradise
Ann Arbor's Only Jazz Club
Located at 207 South Ashley
6624310

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IN AND OUT IN 30 MINUTES IN MOST CASES
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Copyright 0 1985 Meineke

Michigan Alumni work here:
The Wall Street Journal
The New York Times
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The Detroit News
NBC Sports
Associated Press
United Press International
Scientific American
Time

The University of Michigan
has a national reputation
for excellence.
THE COLUMBIA SCHOLASTIC
PRESS ASSOCIATION
awards this
FIRST PLACE CERTIFICATE
1
to
Caroline Mullecr and Eric Mat tson for News. Writ iii
Given at Columbia University in the City-of New York,
in its Gold Circle Awards for 1985.
For the article titled,
iti-Nazi Ral lv"

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