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Better Off Dead

4.6 out of 5 stars 661 customer reviews

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(Jul 16, 2002)
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Editorial Reviews

After his girlfriend (Amanda Wyss) ditches him for a boorish ski jock, Lane (John Cusak) decides that suicide is the only answer. However, his increasingly inept attempts bring him only more agony and embarrassment. Filled with the wildest teen nightmares, a family you can't help but identify with and a host of wonderful comic characters, Savage Steve Holland's writing/directorial debut is a masterful look at those painfully funny teen years.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: John Cusack, David Ogden Stiers, Kim Darby, Demian Slade, Scooter Stevens
  • Directors: Savage Steve Holland
  • Writers: Savage Steve Holland
  • Producers: Andrew Meyer, Gil Friesen, Michael Jaffe, William Strom
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: July 16, 2002
  • Run Time: 97 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (661 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JKFA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #415 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Better Off Dead" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Ellis on December 24, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
As the years go by, I find myself growing more and more convinced that the '80s were the last true golden age for that often-maligned genre, the teen sex comedy. Whereas now Hollywood shells out a small fortune to finance a Britney Spears soundtrack for films starring young men who make Frankie Avalon look complex (and featuring actresses who seem to have copied Annette Funnicello's bust but none of her own admitedly simple charm), the '80s were usually made with low budgets, up-and-coming young actors who at least seemed to be having fun, scripts that were too joyfully crude to ever be considered truly offensive, and directors who seem to have vanished at the decade's in. My own personal favorite amongst these directors was "Savage" Steve Holland (Is that a perfect '80s name or what?) who defined the entire decade with just two films -- One Crazy Summer and especially Better Off Dead. Both of these films display Holland's crazed, gloriously strange wit, his penchant for casting Curtis Armstrong as a high school students (despite the fact that Armstrong appeared to be in his 30s at the time), his fondness for the random nonsensical cartoon, and especially his early foresight to make John Cusack his favored star.
In Better Off Dead, Cusack plays a likeable but nerdy high school schlub. Of course, all teen films claim to be about likeable schlubs but Cusack was one of the few actors who was actually believable as being both likeable and socially unpopular. He's dumped by his girlfriend, decides to beat her new boyfriend in a ski competition, attempts suicide a few times -- in a bit that everyone seems to hold as their personal favorite -- has to deal with a homicidal paper boy who wants his two dollars.
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Format: Blu-ray
I don't know what people were expecting to see or hear with Better Off Dead on blu-ray. High definition does not translate to a miraculous transformation. It simply allows you to experience more closely what the source elements have to offer. In the case of Better Off Dead, it had a very low budget and was made very quickly. The filmmakers weren't concerned with how great the shots could be artistically, since it's a screwball comedy for teenagers. The low quality 80's film stock that was used wasn't great with detail, depth, or color, and was quite unstable. The film's soundtrack, which was originally in mono, was created with basic sound effects and design, because that's all the budget allowed for. The film will never look amazing no matter how much restoration is done to it and it'll never sound amazing unless an entirely new sound mix with new sound effects is created. It is a product of its low budget source limitations and unless you accept that fact, you will be greatly disappointed.

On the positive side, the print is clean and full of natural film grain. It's the best I've ever seen it look. The sound is exactly as it has always been, thin, lifeless and limited in range, though dialogue is always intelligible. The downside of this release is there are no special features. No retrospective, or appreciation, or commentary. I'm not surprised considering how limited the fan base is for the film.

This is the best presentation of Better Off Dead to date and I'm sure it could never be much better than it is on blu-ray. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
2 Comments 62 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
It's finally here, and although it doesn't cost $2.00, it's better than nothing (if you caught that reference, you're a fan and will buy it now).
I won't go into plot and such - you already know about the movie's merits (or can find them online easily). This review will concern the region 1 (USA) DVD release that came out 7/16/02 at long last! retail around $20-25 USD.
One note: I had trouble finding this on release day - the local "big box" boys all told me they had "a copy on order or something"... I guess they didn't anticipate a big demand for this wildy funny 1985 cult comedy.
DVD Special Features: Widescreen enhanced for 16:9, English Subtitle Option, Dolby Digital & "English Stereo" (whatever that means). No foreign language tracks, outtakes or even a trailer. No stills of the cast or bios.... nada. Zip. Zero.
Initial Impressions: This DVD is truly a bare-bones production from start to finish. I actually thought the audio track was absent at first, due to the lack of any sound at all until the movie proper starts. And of course you can't skip over the annoying studio splash or the stern warning not to copy it. At least there's no ads or previews in front like some.

Menu Options: The menu page is a static photo with three options - Play, Setup and Scene Selection. Setup lets you pick from "Subtitle: English or None". That's it. No other setup options... it looks like you could change Audio Indicator to other foreign languages, but that option does not highlight. Maybe they forgot to add foreign language tracks or the coder forgot to link up to the function.
Video: I played this on two different TV/DVD setups - one highend and one old/low end. The Widescreen refused to work on my lowend set, but worked fine on the new DVD player.
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