Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Boyfriend's Back (Bob Balaban, 1993)

Representing the biggest leap forward in the promotion of tolerance towards the recently deceased, the delightfully morbid My Boyfriend's Back (a.k.a. Johnny Zombie) should be shown at daycare centres, minimum security prisons, and poorly run outreach programmes nationwide. A crudely worded love letter to those who have dedicated their lives to championing the rights of the dead, the educational film tackles prejudice head-on. In that, it brilliantly uncovers the seedy underbelly of dead hate. Sure, wrapping that message in the shrewd veneer of a teenage zombie comedy might not seem like the most obvious way to illuminate the minds of those who are steadfastly against the idea of dead people attending chichi social functions, but it sure beats the looks of disgust you'll receive when you try to hand a pro-zombie flier to a man who's only use for his penis is expelling urine and penetrating his favourite trækkerdreng once every two weeks. Trust me, the story of a recently murdered teenager coming back to life so he can take the love of his life to prom will eliminate more prejudice than any stupid flier ever could. Now, it should be said, I went into My Boyfriend's Back thinking it was gonna be another lame horror comedy. You know the type, filled to the brim with overlong montages and pink leggings, but lacking in substance. However, this film, while it does sort of start off that way, has a surprising edge to it. I mean, once the deadness of Johnny Dingle (Andrew Lowery) is established, the film soars into an absurdist wonderland. One that just happens to be jam-packed with dark, prickly humour, clever comic book-style storyboards, and dialogue so deadpan, you'd think they were uttered by a battalion of obtuse robots, that you can't help but root for the dead boy to prevail.

What makes the film even more wonderful was the blase attitude the other characters employed when reacting to Johnny's return. Some, of course, seemed genuinely shocked by his unexpected bout of walking and talking, but for most part, they appeared to show no stress whatsoever when they first laid eyes on the slightly decayed sophomore. I'd say, the parents of the stiff adolescent represented this stress-free manner the best.

Portrayed by the wonderful Mary Beth Hurt and Edward Herrmann, these two chipper guardians fully embrace Johnny's lifeless condition, and in the process, extract baskets worth of comedy gold.

Other cast members such as Jay O. Sanders, Paul Dooley, Cloris Leachman (as Maggie The Zombie Expert), Austin Pendleton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman (sporting a backwards baseball hat), and even Matthew Fox (I've never seen him this clean shaven before) all do adequate jobs at maintaining straight faces while reciting ludicrous dialogue. I'd compliment Matthew McConoughey's work, but I felt he was a tad lacking as "Guy #2."

The absolutely enchanting Melissa Taub appears briefly as "Beefy Girl In Library."

And the wonderfully quirky Nannette Brown (Swamp Thing) shows up as a "news reporter."

Oh, and I was disappointed by Traci Lind's wardrobe in this film. I know, it's 1993, and should have known better than to expect her to wear garish colours and pointy footwear. But nonetheless, her clothes were frightfully bland.



  1. Um, wow to that Private Teacher review. That's all I got!

    Dead hate. Clean-shaven Matthew Fox. Hee.

    Oh, I realize I'm in a minority, but I liked that Partners theme. I had actually never heard of that show. Where was I in 1995? Oh, yeah, my first year of grad school, right around the time I was singing Super Chicken drunkenly in a bar.

    Anyway, that's the Mary's Danish chick singing the theme. One of my favorite late 80s songs was "Don't Crash the Car Tonight." It was a mix tape staple amongst my friends.

  2. Private Teacher is like Eating Raoul meets Rear Window with money shots, you should definitely not check it out.

    When does Matthew Fox shave? He's had five days of growth since Party of Five.

    You're in the minority at Match-Cut (the theme is perfectly acceptable to most sane people). Anyway, I couldn't bring myself to click on the thread with the Partners battle. It must have been a bloodbath.

    It's weird, I feel so protective of my nominations.

    Mary's Danish, eh? Thanks, I've always wondered who sang the Partners theme.

    By the way, I only watched the show because Corinne Bohrer was on it. Honest.

  3. Here's that Mary's Danish song on YouTube:

    I was actually going to include it in today's blog entry, but then I had other plans. Maybe I'll have a high school mixtape entry later on.

    d. met a Canadian who had never heard of The Tragically Hip. I think that guy's citizenship should be revoked. NeoA4, I can understand. Grapes of Wrath, sure. Maybe even Blue Rodeo. But the Hip? What the heck?

  4. What the heck, indeed. I'm trying figure out how one might go about not knowing who The Hip are in a Canadian setting, and all I can come up with is that it must be an age thing. I mean, there's no way anyone who was alive between 1987 and, oh, let's say, 2001 could have gone without hearing about them at least once.

    The Toronto Star's Ben Rayner sounded a bit like you in his Reason to Live column today... Second bullet point.

    Mary's danish