Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Cinema File #336: "Best Night Ever" Review

When living on the coasts, one does not condemn the hurricane for its destructive power, nor the twister that tears through a town unsafely nestled right at the center of Tornado Alley. California has its earthquakes, Seattle has its rain, London has its fog, and American Cinema has Friedberg and Seltzer. To rail against them after all this time, or to expect anything more than the lowest common denominator, is an exercise in futility. You can't stop them, and unless you feel obligated to review movies on a regular bases, your best chance is to just try and avoid them at all costs. Their latest film, to the extent that you can call what these people do filmmaking, is called Best Night Ever. If you still decide to waste your time with it as I did, the irony of this title will only become apparent in hindsight, as you begin to realize just how badly this movie has affected the rest of your day.

Best Night Ever is remarkable in that it is the first Friedberg/Seltzer joint not to rely on their tried and true “spoof” formula of rapid-fire pop culture references in place of jokes. Then again, to even use the term spoof to describe their work is arguably an insult to the once great tradition pioneered by Mel Brooks and the Abrams brothers, but it is a necessary distinction to make if only to highlight the one reason why anyone might be even morbidly curious enough to see their latest film. Allow me to assuage this curiosity before it kills your cat: Best Night Ever is not in any way elevated by its comparatively original script. Of course, original is a relative term, as the movie is basically an amalgamated mockbuster of Bridesmaids, The Hangover, and Spring Breakers, just not explicit enough to be considered a parody of any of those far superior movies.

Yes, that's right, while one would think it would be logistically impossible to craft a worse movie than Spring Breakers without Vince Offer involved in the production, Friedberg and Seltzer have somehow found a way. The loose assortment of unfunny vignettes that some might mistake for a story follows four female friends on a raucous Vegas vacation centered around a bachelorette party gone horribly wrong. Our four leads are barely characters, differentiated only by name, hair color, and the one cliche trait that defines them (bossy, slutty, free spirited, and boring respectively), and not one of them grows or changes in any way to justify spending any time with them. At least with the spoof format, half the work is already done in terms of characterization and story, so the fact that they were always so lazy with the second half was a little more bearable. Here, the complete lack of effort has nothing even recognizable let alone interesting to hinge on or expand upon.

Not that you'd really want it to. The pretense of anyone giving a shit would only make this movie presumptuous considering how boldly it wears its complete lack of effort on its sleeve. Lengthy montages of the girls partying in clubs with no attempts at jokes involved, even longer set ups when they do try for an occasional gag that are so tiresome they ruin any potential enjoyment in the punchline, and an entire sequence depicting the most depressing example of fun ever depicted on screen in a scavenger hunt game are but a few of the things that await you if you're brave or stupid enough to venture into this world. There are moments where the movie feels like it wants to explode in some absurd way, but then oddly pulls back, as if it was for some reason important to establish a reality to the film in which not all things are possible, which makes the third act escalation into crime and naked wrestling seem more out of place than surprising.

Don't get your hopes up. When I refer to naked wrestling, of course I mean the comically fat and homely variety. While this is the kind of low budget exploitative trash that would typically not be complete without some or all of the leading quartet getting naked, this never happens, and I'm not sure whether to commend the production for their restraint on this point, or just once again note that they're doing it wrong. Oh, and did I mention that its found footage? This genre of all genres that is so easy to do but so hard to do well, the siren song of hacks and band wagon jumping simpletons, would in retrospect seem like the logical choice for Friedberg and Seltzer's first foray into non-spoof film. They're cheap, easy, and benefit from such low standards. And of course they don't even meet them! The implausibility of the format, the where and why of camera placement, is perhaps more egregious here than ever before, as if it was less a creative decision as it was a practical one to disguise just what terrible visual storytellers they are.

As if we didn't know this by now already. Best Night Ever is less a reflection of its title as it is a reflection of the poem by Saint John of the Cross, a long dark night of the soul, just without the salvation at the end. Its 90 minutes that feels like an eternity you will never get back, its only saving grace being the fact that its paltry release so soon after the similarly small release of The Starving Games indicates that this just might be the last we ever hear from these two cynical, talentless morons. Or at the very least, perhaps from now on, their movies will only get more and more obscure to the point where we won't even hear about them until the few DVD copies printed are out of stock, presumably sold as insulation or kindling. Okay, probably not, but a guy can dream can't he? Better that than suffering through another nightmare from the makers of Disaster Movie.

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