Kaboom (2011)

Directed By: Gregg Araki
Written By: Gregg Araki
Starring: Thomas Dekker
  Haley Bennett
  Chris Zylka
  Juno Temple

Kaboom is Gregg Araki’s latest feature length exploration of tawdry, irreverent, dystopian madness and it’s hugely disappointing. As a huge fan of Araki’s Teen Apocalypse Trilogy I allowed myself raised hopes only for them to be dashed by this tired, repetitive, technicolour mess.

With 2005′s Mysterious Skin it felt very much like Araki had progressed from exploitative apocalyptic comedies about sexually adventurous teens and delved into something much deeper and darker. It provided him with his most critically lauded film to date and so for someone who showed such filmic evolution, Kaboom feels a little like a step backwards for the infamous director.

Kaboom stars Thomas Dekker (TV’s Sarah Connor Chronicles) as Smith; a sexually ambiguous college freshman who enjoys dalliances with a bubbly, promiscuous blonde named London (Juno Temple) but who also suffers from a crush on his outwardly straight surfer roommate Thor. After a string of mysterious dreams that he feels must have some greater significance, he turns to acerbic, profane best friend Stella (Haley Bennett) and the two try to piece together the events of the present and tie them to Smith’s bizarre dreams.

Thomas Dekker, as the films lead, manages to keep his head above water in a more daring role than he’s used to but most of the films charisma comes in the shape of, the sometimes annoying but nevertheless charming, Juno Temple and the droll, sarcastic Haley Bennet as the protagonists lesbian BFF. There are brief roles from Kelly Lynch and Araki regular James Duvall but they are largely wasted in a sea of bad dialogue and recurrent gawdy visuals.

Speaking of the dialogue, scripts in Greg Araki movies have often been fun, irreverant, abstract teen-speak which worked wonderfully in his 90′s efforts but these days feels more affected than ever. Rather than feeling fresh and frivolous, instead it just feels stale and immature. Maybe that’s an unfair criticism, and the 18 year old me would disagree but at 28, I can’t help but feel I’ve outgrown Mr. Araki and although I’ll always have a great deal of affection for his earlier work a little part of me feels that might have more to do with fond retrospection than anything else. Kaboom is full of too-cool-for-school characters who wear tight pants and ironic retro outfits, look wistful and talk in monotone voices using what seems like a bastardised version of Clueless-speak.

Having followed his career throughout the years, I’d be lying if I said that I wasnt disappointed by Kaboom in some facet but for newcomers to his movies, there is still lots to enjoy. For those familiar with his back catalogue, it’ll almost certainly feel like he’s decided to revisit Nowhere and The Doom Generation and lazily mash them together. Given that he’s over 50 now, it’s no wonder that it appears he can no longer relate to his characters or his target audience. Araki will always be a brave and audacious filmmaker and I’ll always have time to watch his new offerings but the glimmer of hope that he might surpass his masterpiece Mysterious Skin is dwindling. I certainly hope he takes a fresh approach next time as his provocative, socio-political leanings, much like his fanbase, is getting older and no longer flies.

Kaboom isn’t terrible, it’s just been done before, and better. It’s a familiar tale of profanity, promiscuity and impending doom that ultimately fizzles out before it ever really gets off the ground. If you have nothing better to watch, there are worse ways to spend an evening but if you want to see an Araki film worth writing home about, then check out Nowhere, or better yet, Mysterious Skin.

Rating: ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆

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