Release Date: February 27, 2004
Box Office Gross: $5,001,708
Rotten Tomatoes Freshness Rating: 30%
Pertinent Review Line: “Even by its own low-ball standards, “Club Dread” falls short. Chandrasekhar and company opt for graphic gags instead of actual, you know, comedy. The troupe’s 2001 “Super Troopers,” a sort of “Police Academy” caper that featured Broken Lizard as inept members of the Vermont State Police, had its moments. But in “Dread,” no one seems the slightest bit motivated to work the humor. Why bother? The living on this island is too easy.” – Desson Thomson, Washington Post
That tepid endorsement for the generally hilarious Super Troopers was as close to actual praise as I could find for Broken Lizard’s cop farce from a critic. Why Super Troopers even matters in this discussion serves as the entire basis for my argument as to why Club Dread underrated. So let’s take a look at Broken Lizard’s alleged sophomore slump more carefully then.
The Case for Why It’s Not Underrated
The best types of movie parodies are generally those films that not only skewer their chosen genre, but celebrate them as well. The Princess Bride works both as a parody of live action fairy tale and as a fairy tale itself. The first Shrek movie achieves the same, only in animated form. And Scream worked as a slasher send-up largely because it stands alone as a damn good slasher movie in its own right.
Club Dread attempts to interweave an old horror staple (island paradise turns into island terror) with the screwball comedy the Broken Lizard troupe has cultivated, and many would argue they don’t do either particularly well. The movie shifts in tone on a dime, and considering none of the Broken Lizard guys will be mistaken for Olivier, the dramatic left turns taken by the script and direction hang the actors out to dry and leave them groping for proper character motivation and appropriate reaction.
The biggest knock on this movie: It’s not Super Troopers, one of the most unexpectedly uproarious movies of its time. You can watch Super Troopers over and over again and quote it incessantly. Most would argue you can’t do that with Club Dread. And considering what fun Super Troopers was, anything less than that level of excellence will be disappointing.
The Case for Why It Is Underrated
In a totally bizarre way, it helped that I hated Super Troopers the first time I saw it. I remember while watching the previews for it on television that a movie about a bunch of goofball cops who seem to abuse their authority couldn’t have possibly appealed to me less. Hey, corrupt cops harassing civilians! Hilarious!
Then my roommates saw it and wouldn’t stop fucking quoting it, so one night I sat down and watched it alone. I still didn’t like it. It was only after several viewings that I finally came around and became one of the many that watched it over and over again. I still can’t hear “Would you like to Supersize that order for 25 cents more?” without thinking “Want me to punchisize your face… for free?”
So, given that level of devotion, it didn’t surprise me that most of my friends found Club Dread underwhelming at best. And who could blame them? You can’t look at the chubby masseur in Club Dread and not call him Farva. The lovable Thorny was now a dreadlocked, English accented tennis douche. What the fuck happened to the characters we love?
The only thing to say: They’re different. Get over it.
Trying to compare Club Dread is like trying to compare your current girlfriend to your ex-girlfriend without all that messy breakup stuff. Maybe your last girlfriend was really kinky in bed and your current girlfriend is sort of tame and likes it with the lights off. Perhaps your ex could take a beer bong like a sore nickel whore swallowing a sailor during Fleet Week while your current one only likes Mike’s. But maybe your current girlfriend happily makes you twice baked potatoes every time you grill a steak. Maybe she happily watches Die Hard with you every time it’s on cable with no complaints. Maybe she tells a mean dirty joke.
The point is, comparing the two is unfair and only does a disservice to the one you’re with now. Club Dread is damn funny on its own terms, and just for a real shock, it’s got decent scares to boot.
I know it’s hard to accept Kevin Heffernan as this movie’s protagonist considering what a loathsome, petulant dickhead Farva was in Super Troopers, but if you can put Farva outside your consciousness for just a minute, you’ll see he’s actually quite fun. Steve Lemme as Juan has one of the funniest lines, I dare say ever, when he says, “Someone is a-killing the dick out of everyone.” Sure, he’s not playing Repeater, but you’ve got to move on.
And one thing that will help in this pursuit is by focusing on the delightful performance of Bill Paxton who plays rum-soaked, washed up, island crooner Coconut Pete. His song Pina Colada-burg is a great send up of Jimmy Buffett’s idiotic ditties, and when one of the chicks on the island mistakes him for “that son of a son of a bitch,” watching the normally mellow Coconut Pete lose it is enormous fun.
I won’t spoil this movie’s choicest jokes, gratuitous use of boobs, or horror movie twists and turns because you’ve probably never given this movie a fair shake. You probably sulked through it wondering why Super Troopers 2 sucked so bad. Do yourself a favor and cleanse yourself from Super Troopers before re-embarking on a trip to Club Dread. You’ll find that the humor you love is still there, but it’s wrapped in a different looking package.
And if you don’t buy that, see what I wrote above concerning “gratuitous use of boobs.”
12 May 2010 E Dagger