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Better Off Dead

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John Cusack, Better Off Dead
Better Off Dead: The Everett Collection

Better Off Dead

Current Status:
In Season
John Cusack, Diane Franklin, David Ogden Stiers
Savage Steve Holland
Savage Steve Holland

We gave it a B

Don’t let that theatrical release date put you off: Better Off Dead may have debuted in the heart of the Reagan era, but it would be unfair to lump this sweet high school romance in with its ’80s movie brethren. While most teen comedies of that decade dwelled on T&A gags and none-too-subtle class stereotypes — resulting in a slew of box office hits that have aged about as well as a ”Where’s the Beef?” T-shirt — ”Better Off Dead” has the rare mix of heart and smarts to render it nearly timeless.

John Cusack is in full nice-nerd mode here, playing a high schooler gone suicidal after a breakup; salvation comes in the guise of a grounded foreign-exchange student (Diane Franklin), who bands with him against preppy elitists, a dollars-demanding delivery boy, and a pair of Howard Cosell-obsessed Japanese drag racers. The digital edition has no behind-the-scenes extras, but the movie’s quiet charm is so subtle that perhaps we’re better off without them.