The throwaway stoner teen comedy has become a legitimate genre in the movie world, with some doing their thing better than others. The majority of the target audience for “The Binge” isn’t going to be one that demands a high artistic value for their cinematic entertainment, but they’re likely seeking unadulterated, dumb fun from a late-night drug comedy. This Hulu original movie at least partially delivers on those expectations. It’s not truly terrible, but it’s not an instant classic either.
Set up as a satire of “The Purge,” the film takes place in a time where all drugs and alcohol are illegal. Most young adults have never tasted a beer, and drinking is a thing of the past. For twelve hours once a year, a worldwide binge day is held where everyone 18 and older can consume mass quantities of booze and controlled substances. The city’s celebration of excessive inebriation culminates in a competition known as “The Gauntlet,” which features ridiculous stunts of varying levels of debauchery that involve everything from donuts and live alligators to mountains of cocaine and Al Pacino impersonations.
It’s a humorous premise that’s mostly squandered in favor of unfunny gags and long stretches of lazy filler like scenes of drinking and partying that serve little purpose except to extend the film’s run time. There are clear examples where screenwriter Jordan VanDina thinks he may have a slam dunk joke on his hands, but the end result plays poorly. Take the extravagant musical number, for instance. It’s a copycat of the terrific “Not Another Teen Movie,” but it flops as teens sing the (observational) lyrics “we’re gonna get high, gonna get baked / ‘Til every inch of us just aches.” There’s not enough substance to the words, as the characters are literally describing what they are doing, have done, and will continue to do.
The movie borrows heavily from other retro teen classics, stoner comedies, and features callbacks to better films like “Superbad,” “Boogie Nights,” “Pineapple Express,” and even “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” It’s not wholly original in its ideas, but the inspired bits that are funny are really funny, like a scene about an auto-corrected text message and a bizarre-but-hilarious performance from Vince Vaughn as the wildly inappropriate school principal.
I didn’t hate “The Binge,” and I actually can count more than half a dozen times that it made me laugh, and laugh heartily. Still on the fence? If you’re the intended audience for this movie, you’ll know after watching the trailer.