Life isn’t going too well for Lane (Cusack). His girlfriend has left him for the boy who can ski the highest ski run, so he decides maybe suicide is the answer, but when he attempts to take his own life, even that doesn’t go as he planned, and he decides the only way to win back the girl is to ski that run for himself. Yes, we’re in quirky movie territory: in the background his best friend confuses snow for that other white powder, the local newspaper-delivery boy becomes increasingly unhinged in his search for payment and neighbourhood Japanese drag racers challenge kids in their parents’ station wagons.
Cusack nailed the adorable/downtrodden teen role here, and delivers the humour with panache while all hell breaks loose around him. It’s crazy stuff with bits of animation sprinkled in that won’t be to everyone’s taste (and it has dated a tad – check out the hideous fashion), but it’s worth a look nonetheless. Cusack and the film’s writer/director, Savage Steve Holland, reteamed for the similar One Crazy Summer (1986), which also starred Demi Moore and again featured Holland’s animation.
Is Better Off Dead suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...