Movie review: 'Kaboom'

Juno TempleHaley BennettThomas DekkerGregg ArakiClay Aiken

*** (out of four)

Asked whether or not he's gay, college freshman Smith (Thomas Dekker) says he's “undeclared,” which lands him in situations ranging from routine casual sex with a British girl named London (Juno Temple) in the back of a van owned by a guy he met five minutes ago at a nude beach. Not simplifying Smith's life at all is his constant visions of attackers in animal masks or his lesbian best friend Stella (Haley Bennett), who he refers to as a “vagatarian” (think about it) and is in a relationship with a girl she's sure is a witch with sexual powers.

The buzz: Yes, that's really the plot, which isn't necessarily a change of pace for veteran provocateur/writer-director Gregg Araki (“The Living End,” “Mysterious Skin”). The challenge of “Kaboom” will be to hold together even when it feels like some crazy mutation of “Donnie Darko,” “Juno” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”

The verdict: Stella says that dreams are just your brain taking a dump at the end of the day. Well, the lively “Kaboom” seems to prove her wrong, unfolding as a horny, hallucinogenic fantasy whose descent into nightmare doesn't stop it from becoming enjoyably silly in its final, here's-the-bonkers-thing-that's-happening explanation. It adds up to a sick joke that's not quite mind-blowing, but there's a gleeful thrill that comes from seeing such unflinching, defiantly goofy weirdness once in a while. It's certainly preferable to boring, obvious stuff like “The Mechanic” or “Country Strong,” which is the uptight wallflower to “Kaboom's” outrageous, sexually adventurous party monster.

Did you know? Let's all just agree that lines like “queerer than Clay Aiken” and “nuttier than squirrel s***” aren't clever, so writers can stop trying so hard.

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Juno TempleHaley BennettThomas DekkerGregg ArakiClay Aiken
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