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Better Off Dead: "A study in moppishness"



Mention the movie Better Off Dead, and my mind returns to the summer of 1986 when I worked as a sales clerk at a small video store in Tampa Bay. It was a small store, so I usually worked alone and rented out maybe 30 or 40 videos in a given day.

That summer, Back to the Future was the top rented movie. Our store had only two copies to rent. Unfortunately, I "lent" a copy out free to the pizza store next door in order to get free lunch one day -- one tape equaled one medium pie -- and didn't see the tape again for a month. So instead of making excuses for our lack of inventory, I instead offered up "Better Off Dead" -- an odd comedy featuring John Cusack as he recovers from the loss of a girlfriend with the help of a drug-crazed friend, creepy neighbors and an exchange student from France.

"It's so good," I promised customers, "that if you don't like it, you don't have to pay for it." Never once did anyone ask for a refund.

Side story: One day, the former football coach of my rival high school came in. Not expecting to be recognized, he asked me for a recommendation for a good porn tape. I can't print the name of the film I suggested, but imagine his surprise when I addressed him as "Coach (insert last name here)" when showing it to him. He rented it anyway, and became a good customer that summer. Among his non x-rated rentals, Better Off Dead was his favorite too.

So back to the movie in question....

Pop quiz: Yes or no ... Is "Better Off Dead" the best John Cusack movie of the 80s? Or is it just the most quotable? Is his character Lane Meyer more lovable than his Lloyd Dobbler character in Say Anything or his "Gib" from The Sure Thing?

What makes "Better Off Dead" such itself a classic? The direction by Savage Steve Holland? He also directed "One Crazy Summer" with Cusack, but few people attach much love to that.

Help us answer these questions as we tackle the great and almighty "Better Off Dead" in this week's Stuck in the 80s podcast.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 2:17pm]


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