Better Off Dead...
*** Image B- Sound C-
starring John Cusack, David Ogden Stiers, Diane Franklin, Kim Darby
written and directed by Savage Steve Holland
by Jefferson Robbins Better Off Dead... probably wouldn't have outlasted its peers among cheaply-made '80s teen comedies minus three crucial factors. There's John Cusack's extraordinary Everyguy deadpan: He reacts to absurdity without visibly reacting, a still pivot for the scene around him and the best possible audience surrogate for a vehicle like this. There's writer-director Savage Steve Holland's visual wit, rooted in classic cartoons and well-abetted by editor Alan Balsam (Revenge of the Nerds). And finally, there's Holland's clearly-demonstrated understanding of what it's like to be a teenage male--collapsing in the face of spurned love, so immersed in one's own fantasies and neuroses that everyone, even relatives and close friends, seems a grotesque. This internal state gets externalized in Better Off Dead..., as no matter where Cusack's Lane Meyer goes, he's confronted with such bizarre contortions of humanity that he might as well be an astronaut among aliens.