Posted June 9, 2011 by David Watson in Films
 
 

Kaboom


Director Gregg Araki is many things. Subtle has rarely been one of them. Provocative and undeniably talented, he is something of a rare beast in today’s cinematic landscape; he has somehow managed to keep making movies for the last 20 years despite only making one good film. Kaboom is not that good film.

Director Gregg Araki is many
things. Subtle has rarely been one of them. Provocative and undeniably
talented, he is something of a rare beast in today’s cinematic landscape; he
has somehow managed to keep making movies for the last 20 years despite only making
one good film.
Kaboom is not that
good film.

Smith (Thomas Dekker) is
pretty (and pretty vacant). He’s just started college, describes his sexuality
as “undeclared” and when he’s not hanging out with his best friend, the
acid-tongued Stella (Hayley Bennett), he’s lusting after his hunky but dumb
surfer roommate Troy (Chris Zylka). When Stella abandons him at a party in
favour of gorgeous witch (Yup! You read that right. WITCH!) Lorelei (French actress Roxanne Mesquide), he hooks up with the sexually aggressive London (the
gorgeous Juno Temple) who, after riding him like Seabiscuit, kicks him out of bed (because she doesn’t do
cuddles), sending him home.

Wandering across the campus, a little bit drunk, a
little bit stoned, he witnesses three black-clad men in animal masks stab a
girl to death and passes out. Waking up the next day, unsure if what he saw was
a drug-induced hallucination or an actual murder, he and Stella begin their own lazy investigation. Despite occasionally being sidetracked by bouts of
energetic sex (girls, boys, a threesome) and Stella’s attempts to break up with
Lorelei (who it turns out is an evil witch able to shoot lightning and possess people as easily as she can
induce orgasms), the pair stumble across a conspiracy involving a powerful
cult, that bears a superficial resemblance to Tom Cruise’s favourite belief
system, and an end-of-the-world prophecy in which Smith just might be the
Chosen One.

Since bursting onto the
independent movie scene back in the early ‘90s with The Living End, a nihilistic road movie about two HIV positive gay
men on a crime spree, Araki has been in the vanguard of the New Queer Cinema
movement. Messy and chaotic, his films had a post-punk aesthetic and vibrancy
that was missing in the films of other Queer directors like Todd Haynes, Tom
Kalin and Gus Van Sant. If The Living End was a Queer take on Thelma and Louise, his next film Totally F***ed Up was more like a gay John Hughes movie while The
Doom Generation
and Nowhere were largely plotless, trashy exploitation flicks
stuffed full of amoral beautiful people having explicit sex and committing
graphic acts of violence. Then Gregg went and grew up and made a decent film, Mysterious
Skin
. Thought-provoking and moving, Mysterious
Skin
was an intelligent and
harrowing exploration of child sexual abuse and its repercussions. Every the
contrarian, Araki then made his most financially successful film Smiley Face, a dumb stoner comedy that sees Anna Faris eat some
hash cakes and ride a Ferris wheel. After the acclaim of Mysterious Skin and the success of Smiley Face it almost feels like Araki decided to deliberately
shoot his career in the face by making a film as shallow and empty as Kaboom.

Starring a collection of
gorgeous young things led by TV’s John Connor (The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Thomas Dekker, Kaboom elevates vacuous to a whole new level. Everyone is
beautiful and disaffectedly louche, the boys are, without exception, as dumb as
a bag of hammers and Bennett and Temple get all the best lines, one
being Temple’s mid-cunnilingus “Dude, it’s a vagina…Not a bowl of
spaghetti!”

To be honest, there are only
two real reasons to see Kaboom.
The first is that, for a gay man, Araki devotes a lot of screen-time to, well,
lovingly showing a lot of Juno Temple. The second is the intermittently
hilarious bursts of dialogue (Smith while reading about the cult: “You ever
heard of the New Order?” Stella:
“The seminal ‘80s New Wave band?”). The script is nonsense. It meanders
aimlessly for 70-some minutes before tying everything up in the last 10 with a Scooby
Doo
-style explanation and an
apocalyptic ending seemingly inspired by Beneath the Planet of the Apes. It’s impossible to care about the characters;
you’ve probably stepped in deeper puddles. The sex scenes, while energetic,
aren’t particularly sexy, the film is shot like a episode of 90210 and ultimately the film feels like rather a
pointless exercise. If Philip K. Dick were alive today, tripping on mushrooms
and writing an episode of Gossip Girl, he might come up with something like Kaboom. It still wouldn’t be worth 83 minutes of your life.
Unless you desperately want to see the girl from the St. Trinian’s movies naked and talking dirty.


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com