02nd Oct2020

‘The Binge’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Skyler Gisondo, Dexter Darden, Vince Vaughn, Eduardo Franco, Grave Van Dien, Zainne Saleh, Esteban Benito, Tony Cavalero, Hayes MacArthur | Written by Jordan VanDina | Directed by Jeremy Garelick

You’ve heard of The Purge, now here’s The Binge, a satirical teen comedy with a similar set-up to the horror franchise, only focused on drugs and alcohol. As such, it has a great comic cast and delivers a number of decent laughs, though there’s also a strong sense of missed opportunity.

Set in the not-too-distant future (2032, to be precise), The Binge imagines a world where drugs and alcohol have been outlawed, except for one 12 hour period each year, a night known as The Binge. Over footage of real-life drunken incidents, a narrator who sounds a lot like Morgan Freeman (but is actually Josh Robert Thompson) tells us that the science is sound – after binging on drugs and alcohol for the first time, only a very small percentage ever try them a second time.

As Binge night approaches, best friends Griffin (Skyler Gizondo) and Hags (Dexter Darden) are hoping to attend a huge party and achieve local legend status by participating in an underground competition called The Gauntlet. At the same time, Griffin hopes to finally ask long-time crush Lena (Grace Van Dien) to the prom, despite the fact that she’s the daughter of Principal Carlsen (Vince Vaughn). However, first, they have to actually get to the party, which involves scoring some tickets from weirdo schoolmate Andrew (Gizondo’s Booksmart co-star Eduardo Franco).

Modelling itself very much on the likes of Superbad (with Franco as the McLovin’), The Binge‘s strongest asset is the comic chemistry between the two leads. Gizondo, in particular, is very funny, sticking closely to the comic persona he’s established in his scene-stealing film appearances and in shows like Santa Clarita Diet. There’s also strong support from Vince Vaughn, who has his own subplot and is clearly improvising his dialogue (in a good way).

Director Jeremy Garelick ensures that there’s a steady supply of gags, both verbal and visual. That said, some of the comic set-pieces land and some don’t, with an extended sequence involving an unfortunate cow falling particularly flat. On the plus side, the dialogue is frequently laugh-out-loud funny, especially in the early scenes when teenagers are excitedly discussing possible consequences of The Binge, e.g. “I heard that if you eat mushrooms and sacrifice an animal, your entire world turns into a musical.” One line in particular has a delightful comic pay-off that it would be churlish to spoil here.

The strangest thing about the film is that it’s curiously tame, other than all the drugs and alcohol stuff. The characters may be horny teenagers but there’s no salacious content whatsoever, despite the fact that they’re constantly talking about it. On top of that, the film misses the chance to actually explore both society’s real-life relationship to drugs and alcohol and the more clichéd part those substances play in movies and TV shows. It’s also fairly irresponsible in that regard, since it shows the characters ingesting industrial amounts of booze and drugs with next to no effect. Put it this way, if you attempted a booze-and-drug-a-long with this movie, you’d be dead within minutes.

Ultimately, there’s plenty to enjoy in The Binge, thanks to likeable characters, some inventively witty dialogue (“That girl has chaotic energy – she’s like a scorpion in a toaster”) and some inspired comic set-pieces. It’s just a shame that the central premise has so little impact on the plot.

*** 3/5

The Binge is available to watch on Hulu now.


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