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Arts and Entertainment

Alive and Well: Better off Dead Celebrated at the Aero

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Sadly, John Cusack didn't make it. | Photo by Jon Peters for LAist

Sadly, John Cusack didn't make it. | Photo by Jon Peters for LAist
by Jon Peters for LAist

Better off Dead celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica yesterday. In attendance was director “Savage” Steve Holland along with a coterie of stars including Diane Franklin (French exchange student Monique), Curtis Armstrong (snow snorting best friend Charles De Mar), and E.G. Daily (the intoxicating singer at the dance). Sadly, John Cusack, who some think landed his breakout role in this movie, was not in attendance. The rest of the cast, however, provided sometimes illuminating and always funny commentary during the film.

The story, which details the comedic adventures of one high school skier, Lane (played by Cusack) dumped by his girlfriend, and his multiple suicide attempts, holds up well. Many moments the audience yelled out lines or questions for the cast and crew. For example, the trademark “two dollars” catchphrase could be heard ad nauseam; at points in the evening the audience even sang along to the corny eighties soundtrack. It became clear from the number of die-hards in the audience that to some this was a nerdier version of Rocky Horror, except teenage, 80s and with Cusack.

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Holland had some funny lines. When the audience saw a shot of kids walking to school he called out “1965 stock footage!” He also provided some great trivia. For example, he explained that Bob Barker was the original choice for Lane’s dad. The sludge dinner Lane’s mom makes for the family was composed of raisins and slime. But when Savage Steve didn’t know the answers, an audience member did.

At the Q and A after the movie, fans expressed their delight with the film. One person explained how he was inspired to write his college essay after hearing the advice Charles gives Lane before he takes a slope—“Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn”—which still sounds pretty sane today. Other fans wanted to know what the actors are up to now. Curtis Armstrong can be seen in American Dad and an upcoming CSI, for example. Savage Steve Holland directs a couple of shows for Nickelodeon.

Asked by this review why the movie was not a bigger hit upon first release, Holland was equally confused, “I was surprised it wasn’t a bigger hit. The critics hated it. I walked into film jail with this movie.” But the recent interest in the flick is certainly welcomed--as he told the audience after the lights went up, “Thank you so much for liking our movie.”

It’s hard not to when the material is so funny.

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