The Binge (now streaming on Hulu) is another comedy about unpopular high school best friends trying to get to a party so they can impress a girl or prove to everyone how cool they are. It is The Purge (minus murder, plus lots of drugs and alcohol) smashed together with the raunchy teen comedy formula taken from superior efforts like Superbad or Booksmart. I did chuckle at several lines, but The Binge relies far too much on the idea of people drinking or doing drugs for its laughs. There is nothing inherently funny about that. While it can definitely be used for good jokes, the premise is not a joke in and of itself. The result is predictable and only sporadically amusing; a dreary combination.
The year is 2032. All drugs and alcohol have been banned. However, one day a year, for twelve hours, you can drink/smoke/snort/take pills as much as you want (as long as you’re at least 18, of course). That is attached to the story of high school seniors Griffin and Hags, who want to go to a binge party where Griffin can ask his crush to the prom and Hags can turn himself into a legend.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the protagonists are best friends who are going to be separated when they go to college. One is shy, the other is loud and vulgar. Then there is the obstacle getting in the way of the shy one getting the girl (in this case, it is her father, the principal, given a bizarre character arc, yet saved from disaster by a mildly entertaining Vince Vaughn). Throw in the optional lonely weirdo the friends let tag along for some reason and you’ve got the outline to many a recent teen comedy. The predictability isn’t too significant of an issue as long as that outline is filled in with likable characters and funny gags. That is where The Binge fails.
In Superbad and Booksmart the biggest laughs are character based. Here, the characters are so derivative that everything comes off as forced. Nobody is believable. The dialogue tends to feel like movie dialogue, not something these people would naturally say. Though the lead trio of Dexter Darden (as the vulgar one), Skyler Gisondo (as the shy one) and Eduardo Franco (as the weird one) have their moments, they never get to make these types their own (the latter two were both funnier with much better material in Booksmart).
The females who are the objects of their lust fare even worse; they barely get character traits. Then there is Vince Vaughn, stalking through the movie, not bothering to make the principal make sense. His subplot is pointless (bafflingly, the filmmakers actually rush past the big moment his character was created for, in favor of the wrong climactic scene), but Vaughn’s delivery is enough to justify his presence.
Take a formulaic story, add dull characters and big gags that all fall flat and you have a forgettable misfire like The Binge. There really isn’t much more to say beyond “It’s not awful, yet it isn’t worth the 90 minutes it would take to watch it, either.” The most important thing about a comedy is whether or not it’s funny. The Binge isn’t nearly enough.
1¾ out of 5
Skyler Gisondo as Griffin
Dexter Darden as Hags
Eduardo Franco as Andrew
Vince Vaughn as Principal Carlsen
Grace Van Dien as Lena
Esteban Benito as Seb
Zainne Saleh as Sarah
Directed by Jeremy Garelick
Written by Jordan VanDina