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“The Binge” Has Funny Moments But Doesn’t Approach Its Satirical Potential

Full disclosure: I dislike The Purge film franchise intensely. In particular, the sequels have expanded on a potentially good genre idea and just become absolute dreck. So, a comedic satire of the whole thing contained strong possibilities for me. I’d 100% be on board with something of the sort. At the same time, to only partially tackle the concept would just lead to a mess, and that’s where we are with The Binge. At times, this is an amusing lowest common denominator comedy. At other times, however, cringingly unfunny, almost disregarding its own premise in the hope of capitalizing on a joke that’s never going to work. Dropping this weekend on Hulu, it’s far too hit or miss to recommend.

The movie is a comedy that satirizes The Purge and its central conceit. Here, a time period in the near future has descended into such chaos that the government has stepped in to combat addiction. Now, alcohol and drugs are only legal for one 24 hour period a year, resulting in a wild success. At the same time, it also creates one wild day that’s a huge party situation for high schoolers. This year, Griffin (Skyler Gisondo) and Hags (Dexter Darden) are planning to attend their first binge party. Prom is coming up and the former is hoping to ask out Lena (Grace Van Dien) his longtime crush and the daughter of the intense Principal Carlsen (Vince Vaughn), while the latter wants to compete in a competition held each year that could make him a legend. When they need to acquire an extra wristband to the party, they recruit their weird former friend Andrew (Eduardo Franco), setting off on an all-day adventure that will introduce them to drinking, taking various narcotics, as well as getting into ridiculous amounts of trouble. While they slowly make their way to the huge party, Principal Carlsen is on the hunt for Griffin and Lena after seeing a poorly typed out text message. The first act is basically just a high school comedy, with the second act being a race against time. Then, the third act turns into something just a bit weirder. Jeremy Garelick directs a screenplay by Jordan VanDina. Matt Bowen composes the score, which Andrew Huebscher handling the cinematography. Supporting players include Esteban Benito, Tony Cavalero, Hayes MacArthur, and more.

To be sure, there are funny moments here. By and large, any of the sequences involving Vince Vaughn work more than they don’t. However, too many of the jokes fall flat, overall, emerging as generic raunchy comedy set-pieces, as opposed to something that serves this particular idea. That’s where the biggest issue resides, too, as so much of the core of this flick ignores the actual satire. The idea of a sanctioned binge has so much potential, to not make use of it is almost as much of a crime as what we see in The Purge and its various sequels.

The Binge is ultimately wasted potential for satire. The act itself is only sporadically depicted, the involvement of the government is limited, and it ends up largely as an excuse to show teens drinking and doing drugs. Director Jeremy Garelick and writer Jordan VanDina lose their satirical thread early on, only picking it back up at random moments when the mood seems to strike. Plus, when you have Vaughn in cast, as well as two of the leads being standout supporting players from last year’s amazing Booksmart, it’s fair to expect more than we’re given. In the end, it has to be considered a disappointment, even if Vaughn’s largely amusing and a few of the jokes really do land.

Tomorrow, audiences looking for a silly comedy can give a shot to The Binge when it drops on Hulu. Will you laugh? Probably. Will you laugh as much as you’re hoping to? Likely not. That’s the main issue here…it’s just not funny enough to overcome wasting its satirical premise. That combination is too big a hurdle to clear, resulting in an experience that’s both forgettable as well as underwhelming. If you’re desperate for comedy, you can do worse, but keep in mind that you can do a lot better, too.

The Binge hits Hulu on Friday.

(Photos courtesy of Hulu)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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