Friday, January 25, 2013

"John Dies at the End" (2012)

There is a tremendous value to be found in society’s hecklers, the satirists. They point out the problems in society that should be obvious. If they do their job right, they expose our blind spots in a way that causes us to laugh at ourselves. In spite of what some of them may think they are not infallible oracles of truth, but they usually merit consideration. Writers like Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett spring to mind. Jason Pargin AKA David Wong, the mind behind the book and film “John Dies at the End” is not in this class.

It is too bad too, because he shows some promise. He has a quirky way of looking at things, and a habit of teasing us with interesting ideas that are barely brushed upon in the narrative, but that is where comparisons end. Adams and Pratchett have things they want to say about the real world and use disarming humor and wit to do so. Pargin seems to have no other goal aside from exploring weird ideas.

Unfortunately, most of his weird ideas remain undeveloped, and his insights into reality are limited to clichés like the fact that you will start to notice newly learned words everywhere after you learn them. By the time the film version of his story reaches the third act he has run out of steam. We finish things off with the most pointless and non-titillating use of nudity and a pair of “twist endings” that carry no “aha” power whatsoever. The fact that John comes nowhere near dying at the end is just the sort of problem that this attempt at storytelling has. It’s all set up sans pay-off.

It’s too bad. I wanted this to work.

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