Dread 'Club Dread'

CorrespondentFebruary 27, 2004 

Bill Paxton, left, is the only funny thing about 'Club Dread.'

'Ponytails and cocktails, two things that will always rock!"

That's the only line I laughed at in the alleged comedy "Broken Lizard's Club Dread." I laughed because the line was sung with game enthusiasm by the ridiculously dreadlocked Bill Paxton, whose character, a washed-up hippie rock star named Coconut Pete, is one of the scarce bright spots in this feeble parody.

The movie is the third by Broken Lizard, a five-man comedy troupe who, on their Web site, have the audacity to compare themselves to the great Monty Python. I'll take one aged John Cleese over this nitwit quintet any day.

The group's last film, "Super Troopers," a "Police Academy"-style spoof about bumbling Vermont state troopers, was little more than a string of silly, low-brow gags, but at least it scored some laughs. "Club Dread" is, ahem, more ambitious, attempting to satirize teen spring break movies and slasher flicks -- "The Real Cancun" meets "Scream" -- and failing miserably.

The film is set on Coconut Pete's Pleasure Island, a hedonistic playground in Costa Rica where idiots come to party. The revelry -- which extends to the resort's staff, especially the terminally besotted Pete -- is rudely interrupted by a shadowy killer, who lurks in the jungle and uses his machete to hack at more than the tropical vegetation.

What follows is a tired gloss on "And Then There Were None," as staff members get knocked off one by one and start to suspect one another. Could the slasher be Pete, the one-hit wonder who's still bitter because he wrote his song "Pina Coladaburg" seven years before Jimmy Buffett penned "Margaritaville"? Or is it Lars (Kevin Heffernan), the burly new masseur with the paralyzing touch? Perhaps it's pompous tennis pro Putnam (director Jay Chandrasekhar), or perky aerobics instructor Jenny (Brittany Daniel), or stoner DJ Dave (Paul Soter).

The more pertinent question is, will you care? The screenplay, collectively written by Broken Lizard, is severely deficient in imagination and wit. Each character has been assigned a single personality trait, and the quirks aren't funny to start with and get less funny as they're driven into the ground.

A more freewheeling, demented approach might have worked, but as it is, "Club Dread" trafficks in the same cheesy genre conventions it mocks and succeeds at neither. The movie doesn't aspire to be anything more than mindless entertainment, but the frightening prospect of being stranded on Gilligan's Island with the cast of "Scooby-Do" is preferable to this brainless Broken Lizard revue.

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