SBox Recommends: Behaving Badly

Welcome to the my first WordPress review!

Foreword: (Skip to the review below the line)

I’ve been reviewing movies, games, books, and just about anything else for several years on several sites. It was always called “SBox Recommends”. I haven’t reviewed anything for almost a year now, but I believe now is the time to resurrect that aspect of my on-life. So I give you my review segment.

Note that despite the title “SBox Recommends“, I will not necessarily be recommending everything I review. “Recommends” is a blanket term for review. However, I do believe that everything can mean anything to anybody. So I guess that recommends is a fitting title. Just not in the context that you’d immediately think.

For more information on this segment of my blog, click here. Now, onto the review.


 

When I decided to start reviewing again there were two ways to go about this. Either I start reviewing something heavily known and popular or something rather obscure and weird. I decided that the only way I’m watching this movie is to review it. It certainly wouldn’t be from word of mouth, let me tell you.

Never heard of Behaving Badly? You’re in good company. This movie was released in August 2014 with a limited theatricality release and an immediate online release. It’s also based on the famous book While I’m Dead, Feed the Dog. This movie’s biggest call to fame is for it’s 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (To make matters worse, Rotten Tomatoes is known to have a 1% margin of error).

It’s pretty clear that people aren’t very fond of this movie. But is all this hate warranted? Let’s take a look.

Synopsis

This movie follows a dysfunctional teenage boy named Rick Stevens (Nat Wolff) as he looks back on his two week descent into a living hell. It all started with a bet he made with the son of a notorious mob boss. For $1,000 he must ask out his high school crush, Nina Pennington (Selena Gomez), and have sex with her. To do this, he must receive help from a guardian angel who looks like his mother (Mary-Louise Parker), get intertwined with the local mafia, blackmail a couple people, run a strip club in his house, end up in jail a couple times, and have sex with his best friend’s mother (Elisabeth Shue) on the side.

If you think that synopsis is weird, trust me. The movie is even weirder. I want you to imagine the exact equilibrium between a normal dream and a night-terror; that unexplainable, nonsensical, unpleasant thought. That’s most of the movie.

A more fitting comparison is with Grown Ups 2. Both movies have an unrealistic, dysfunctional, cartoony tone with jokes usually pertaining to sex, drugs, or barf. Where these two break their similarity is in direction. Grown Ups 2 has direction and Behaving Badly does not.

Writing

It’s hard to put this movie into a genre, because it seems lost as to what it’s trying to be. The best bet is a dark comedy, but the movie is constantly walking the line between comedic and straight-forward. So, you really can’t tell what your watching.

Let’s assume for the time being that this is a dark comedy like the book it’s based on.

You’ll find that the movie can be funny at times. When they playback a scene with different dialogue to represent Rick’s train of thought, that’s clever. Even some of its actual jokes can get a laugh. Unfortunately, most of the jokes come off more disturbing than funny. Unless you’re into the kind of humor where a pervert likes the feeling of his genitals being crushed by Elizabeth Shue, the movie can be a bit too much at times.

The movie isn’t necessarily unfunny. It’s just a bit much even for people who like that kind of humor. Since the movie is very light on subtlety for the first two-thirds you’re just constantly hammered with gags that are likely to scare you off.

Don’t get me wrong. I can handle dark humor and toilet humor. South Park is one of my favorite shows. Even for me, the movie can be a bit too uncomfortable… at least at first.

What I found surprising was the final 20 minutes of the movie. The final act brings us back to present day. Rick has hit rock bottom and is deciding where he goes from there. He tries to correct his wrongs and better himself in the process. It is almost a different movie from that point on. That loud and disturbing film suddenly becomes more somber, subtle and intimate.

It’s like you were drunk for the first two acts and sobered up in the third. I really do wish the movie had a tone similar to the climax onward. What the ending did right was maintain its nonsensical atmosphere and portion it (By the way, I’m not talking about the VERY end).

The best way to say it is that the ending had charm. That’s what the rest of the movie lacked in my opinion. With these very uncomfortable, passe themes and jokes you should have a bit of charm to pull the audience in and make them want to stay. Too bad it took them an hour to do so.

Acting

The acting is a bright spot for the film. Say all you want about what was said or done in the movie, but the actors make the movie.

First you have Nat Wolff, who you may know best from Nickelodeon. Irony aside he is probably the best fit for this character. At first glance the performance seems wooden and lifeless, but I think that’s the point. Rick is supposed to be a desensitized character brought up by a crappy series of events. He is really good at showing just the right amount of emotion that makes sense for the character. That said, he is completely able to portray emotions like shock, happiness, and even sadness. Toward the end, you see Rick showing the first real signs of emotion, and it makes sense for that time in the narrative.

Unless the character was supposed to be livelier or emotional. In which case, I guess he didn’t do a good job, but did supply a decent alternative.

Then there’s Selena Gomez. She is completely fine in terms of performance. The problem is the character she’s portraying. Nina is the only character who is actually sane but overly so. She’s the pretty, religious, down-to-earth, nice girl who’s purpose is merely to be a contrast to the world around her and the center of the entire plot. The character is just uninteresting. Had the character had a bit more personality, then Gomez would have more to work with. But she does good with what she’s given.

Mary Louise-Parker also does a good job. I’m not familiar with her work and have nothing to base it on, but I do know that for both the role of Rick’s drunkard mother and guardian angel, she does a great job.

I am also not too familiar with Elisabeth Shue’s work, but she plays a really big part in this movie and does well in it. She plays Rick’s mother’s best friend who also happens to be the mother of his best friend. And she has a thing for Nat Wolff. Such an odd role to play, and she really owns the role. As insane of a human being the character is, she is memorable.

The supporting cast also does a good job in their respective roles. The friend does a good job, so does the mob boss’s son, the priest, the sister, the brother, the principal, etc. You will notice quite a few actors who you may know from other roles. Even Justin Beiber makes a cameo in the movie that lasts four seconds.

Cinematography

You can also commend the cinematography. Nothing about the movie looks choppy or cheap.

The camera work captures everything it has to. You get these really good shots of the town they are in. For example, the movie starts off speeding down the neighborhood where Rick lives, and that looks nice. The camera work is also commendable in scenes where the world freezes around Rick. You have very smooth and natural motions as Rick surveys the scene.

The editing is quick but not too quick. It knows when to let a scene breathe, but it will go fast and cut quickly when its time for something comedic. The cutaways between an event to his fantasy of Nina is one example. The editing actually does make some scenes funnier than they would otherwise be.

The music is mostly pop and some rock songs. There’s not much to note here in terms of a score, though.

Overall, it has traditional fair-budgeted production value throughout.

Overall

This is most certainly a bad movie. No doubt about it. However is it really worth that 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes?

I wouldn’t go that far. If the movie was really worth a 0% not only would it have given me a horrific parasite which would painfully haunt the rest of my days, but it would also have no redeeming factors. That’s just not true.

This movie has decent production value, good performances and decent humor in some places. Given that much worse movies like The Last Airbender have a 6% on RT, I feel the 0% is over-exaggerated. However the movie is quite awful.

The movie’s greatest sin is being a bad comedy. It tries so hard to be a smart, hard-R laugh riot- way too hard. What probably would be a clever dark comedy like the book it’s based on turns into an uncomfortable, unpleasant experience. Even if you love that fresh and disgusting humor, the jokes presented lack the charm to be impactful. The most accurate adjective for the film is “uncomfortable”.

To its credit it eventually gets it right towards the end. But by that time a good bunch of the audience has probably turned the movie off.

Recommendations

This movie is probably suitable to some people with some very twisted senses of humor and a higher tolerance for the more disturbing aspects of this movie. I have seen that some people actually like the movie okay, though they are the minority.

To fans of the original book, don’t expect an accurate representation of the source material. Writer of While I’m Dead, Feed the Dog Ric Browde has publicly denounced the movie for faithlessness to his book. Even though I haven’t read the book, I have read his site’s content. Check it out, because it is very funny.

If you are in any way interested in the synopsis, curiosity can be a good motivation to see it. It’s not the worst comedy ever, but it is pretty bad. See it only if you absolutely need to know. Even low expectations can’t guarantee enjoyment, though.

Verdict: 3/10


 

Thank you all for reading my first WordPress review. I must say, it’s good to be back. Let me know what you thought of the review so that I can improve future ones. And if you saw the movie, what did you think about it?

I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!

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