My good friend (and Rotten Tomatoes higher-up) Tim Ryan is a man whose passion for pop culture rivals each of our own. Most of you don’t know him — much to my chagrin, I haven’t been able to convince him to write the Popdose Guide to Sonic Youth yet — but I mention him here because of a lively debate we engaged in a few years ago, one which, to my memory, took up most of a phone conversation and was never resolved. The crux of Tim’s argument, which was triggered by a Jefitoblog post about some crappy record or other, essentially boiled down to his belief that, while watching a bad movie is a lot of fun, bad music is just depressing, and doesn’t deserve to be glorified with analysis. I disagreed, obviously, but we had to call it a draw after awhile, and I eventually forgot about the conversation.
And then I watched Spring Breakdown, a movie of such punishing awfulness that one of the only reasonable explanations for its existence is a yawning black hatred for fans of its cast and crew. It sounds absurd, I know, but I can’t think of any other circumstances by which this group of A-list comedians and talented actors would come together to produce something that sucks so much. Really, it’s as if Rachel Dratch, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, Parker Posey, Seth Meyers, Amber Tamblyn, and Jane Lynch all got together and said “Hey, you know what would be fun? Tricking everyone who might have enjoyed any of our past work into seeing a movie that looks and sounds like it might be sort of entertaining, but is actually beyond horrible.” And then then they drew straws, and Rachel Dratch got the short one, so she had to go write the script, which she did with SNL associate producer Ryan Shiraki, who did such a marvelous job of coming up with unfunny lines that he was hired to direct — and by “direct,” I mean repeatedly tell the actors “Do it worse! Now do it louder and worse!”
Why these people would do such a thing, I do not know. But it’s either that or they all read the Spring Breakdown script and thought “Fuckin’ A! Terrific!” and proceeded to spend the next few weeks (or days, I hope) happily hamming it up for Shiraki. I was mildly unsurprised to see Lynch in the middle of this mess — in terms of choosing scripts, she’s essentially Eugene Levy with breasts — but not even what passes for humor during the last half hour of a mid-season SNL episode prepared me for the terrible things that Dratch, Poehler and Meyers did in this movie, and Tamblyn and Posey should just be ashamed of themselves. I mean, Jesus. Maybe they had large gambling debts or something, but God, even then, letting the loan shark take a finger or bust a kneecap would have been better than dropping this deuce on your resume.
The plot outline, as I said, sounds sort of entertaining; it’s essentially a female twist on the old horndog beach comedies of the ’80s, casting Poehler, Dratch, and Posey as a trio of social misfits who agree to shadow the daughter (Tamblyn) of a senator (Lynch) in order to preserve her chances of being named the replacement for a disgraced Vice President (who has run off to an “undisclosed location,” natch). Not the most demanding stuff in the world, but with these names involved, it could have been a rental-worthy spoof on the conventions of a long-dead genre, much like Wet Hot American Summer. It could even have been one of those “so bad it’s good” movies that my friend Tim was talking about.
But it isn’t. Spring Breakdown is the opposite of funny, the opposite of entertaining, and whoever had the power to stop this at Warner Bros., yet saw the dailies and did nothing, should be forced into an orange jumpsuit and frog-marched to the side of the nearest highway to pick up garbage. The only way it might have been harder to watch is if someone in the cast had stabbed a baby seal to death with a butter knife at the end of every scene. Every few seconds gives you the cinematic equivalent of a hot, sharp poke in the genitals, whether it’s Posey making stupid faces at the camera or Seth Meyers coming up with the worst on-screen caricature of a gay man since … since I don’t fucking know, actually, and my head hurts from thinking about this movie, so I’m just going to go vacuum out my Blu-ray player and lie down for awhile.