Directed by: Jeremy Garelick
Premise: In the near future, all drugs are illegal in the United States except for one night known as The Binge, when all inebriants are legalized. A trio of high school friends tries to get to a party that evening.
What Works: Actors Skyler Gisondo, Dexter Darden, and Eduardo Franco are cast in the lead roles as a group of high school friends. The three actors commit to the material and they do the best with it that they can. These performers show some promise and hopefully The Binge will lead them to better projects.
What Doesn’t: The Binge is a play on the premise of the horror series The Purge. In those films, all crime, including murder, is legalized for an annual holiday. The filmmakers of The Binge apply the same concept to recreational drug use. This sounds much cleverer than it actually is. Murder is a cross-cultural taboo, which is what makes The Purge concept so shocking, and the filmmakers of that series intelligently tied their premise to racial and economic class tensions. The makers of The Binge don’t do anything nearly as interesting. The world of this film is one in which all illicit substances are illegal and prohibition has somehow worked. That’s quite a stretch; drugs and especially alcohol are deeply embedded in our culture and removing them would necessitate a major shift in cultural norms. An America without drugs and alcohol would probably look like the dystopias of Demolition Man or The Handmaid’s Tale. The Binge doesn’t envision it that way. In fact, the moviemakers fail to imagine anything at all. They introduce this Purge-esque concept and then virtually abandon it. Instead, The Binge is a bland high school comedy with teenagers making occasionally naïve remarks about substance abuse. The picture follows the one-crazy-night-in-high-school formula with no innovation or imagination. The lead character, played by Skyler Gisondo, wants to ask his crush to prom but for some reason he waits until binge night to do that. The movie is a series of hijinks obstructing the character from his mission and none of it is funny. This movie is really stupid but never in a way that gets a laugh. The Binge endorses the virtue of getting smashed and having a good time. There’s a place for films like that but The Binge isn’t any fun. It’s actually quite unpleasant. The humor is lame, the tone is all over the place, and gags that are supposed to be outrageous are just mean spirited. This film is also remarkably tone deaf. Without getting too puritanical about it, The Binge is a movie extolling the virtues of substance abuse released in the midst of a national epidemic of opioid and alcohol abuse. This is the wrong movie at the wrong time.
DVD extras: Currently available on Hulu.
Bottom Line: The Binge is stupid, bland, and unfunny. The movie lazily retreads high school comedy clichés and it is so uninterested in its own concept that it insults the viewer’s intelligence.
Episode: #816 (September 6, 2020)