Better Off Dead
Film Length: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
Two Dollars. I want my Two Dollars
Please allow me to get on my soapbox for a
moment. Paramount is releasing two comedies
next week that come as a direct result of the
membership of Home Theater Forum. Top Secret!
and Better Off Dead were titles that our
membership campaigned for the studio to release.
We would like to thank Paramount for listening
and for releasing perhaps two of the greatest
comedy titles in their catalog.
I really feel as if I am holding the Holy Grail.
Better Off Dead is without question one of
the funniest teen comedy movies ever made. It's
one of the quirkiest movies to come out of the 80's,
mixing an off-beat plot with surrealistic humor.
What's amazing about this film is that it's not
the smartest or best-produced movie of its kind,
but it works totally off the efforts of John
Cusack, whose boyish charm (and often) deadpan
delivery will have you chuckling out loud.
At the age of 16, Lane Meyer (John Cusack) feels
his world is crumbling around him. He has just
been dumped by his girlfriend Beth (Amanda Wyss)
who feels she should be hanging around someone
Things at home aren't much better. He's surrounded
by the weirdest and most unhip family ever imaginable.
There's Badger, his coupon-clipping brother, a mother
whose meals literally walk off the table, a dad who
has affection for TV dinners, and a best friend
who snorts Jell-O. To top things off, the radio
in his car is only playing breakup songs and now
that he has broken up with Beth, everyone from his
science teacher to Barney Rubble wants to date her
(that kills me every time). To make things worse,
two Chinese guys, one speaking no English one speaking
like Howard Cosell, constantly want to race him on
So Lane considers the next step, and his half-serious
suicide attempts become as hilarious as the antics
around him. Enter Monique (Diane Franklin), a foreign
exchange student determined to rid Lane of his
suicidal tendencies and win his heart in the process.
Will Lane end up with Beth or Monique? Will Lane
win the K-12, the hardest ski slope in California?
Will the paperboy ever get his two dollars?
How is the transfer?
Based upon Paramount's reputation for putting
out immaculate transfers, I was anticipating that
Better Off Dead would look spectacular on DVD.
I hate to be the person to break the news to all
the fans -- this movie doesn't look as good as it
You'll see it right from the opening moments
of the film -- there is an abundant amount of film
grain everywhere. It sticks out like a sore thumb
as Lane (Cusack) steps into his bathroom. The white
tiles and tub are littered with grain. From that
moment on, you can't get the grain out of your mind.
The film just doesn't look fresh on this format.
Red color in the flesh tones and a lack of sharpness
in the picture detail give Better Off Dead a
very dated look to it. You can even see a good
amount of film blemish scattered throughout. It's
sort of surprised me that the last 30 minutes of
the film looked better than the first 60 minutes.
Perhaps I was getting used to the graininess at
that point. Through all of this, colors do manage to
stand out rather vividly -- especially on the ski
slopes where you have all the colors set against
a white background.
The stereo surround track sounds pretty good.
In pro-logic mode sound remained strong across
the front channels while the rears provided an
array of background noise from howling wind atop
the California mountain to thunder claps outside
of the fast-food restaurant to the sounds of
shoppers inside a Supermarket. It's nothing to
write home about, mind you, but listening to the
film in pro-logic added to the overall experience.
I just don't know what to make of this transfer.
It could have been so much better and perhaps I
am making such a big deal about such a small film
because it is one of my favorites. The transfer
isn't horrible, but I think fans are going to be
a little agitated when they see this on their
There are none.
Not even a friggin' trailer on this DVD.
A bare-bones release with a lackluster transfer.
I feel sort of let down. Paramount obviously
knew the popularity of this film. I think they
could have done more with it. You mean to tell
me that a simple trailer couldn't have been included
in all this?!
I can almost hear the studio whispering to me,
"Buck up little camper, be happy you got this
title released in the first place."
So buck up little fans, don't let this bad news ruin
your desire to buy one of the best teen comedies
ever made. Head straight to your local dealer...
go that way, really fast....and if something gets
in your way...turn. Just remember there is nothing
worse than throwing away a perfectly good white boy.
Release Date: July 16, 2002