Sundance Review: Kaboom

Friday, January 21 by

I’ve only seen one other Gregg Araki movie, The Doom Generation. I know he does these crazy graphic tales, so I knew what I was getting into. I guess I felt the same way about Kaboom 15 years later. At least it’s out there, but I don’t ultimately enjoy the ride.

It opens on full frontal Smith (Thomas Dekker) in his weird dream about a hallway and a red dumpster. Waking up, he fantasizes about his college roommat Thor (Chris Zylka). He tells his best frien Stella (Haley Bennett), who’s hooking up with a hot witch Lorelei (Roxanne Mesquida). Pretty soon, Smith hooks up with London (Juno Temple) and he starts seeing the women from his dream in real life.

I really feel the plot in this one is just an excuse to linger on lots of sex scenes with beautifully shot naked bodies. Again, that’s fine. We all love our “legitimate” erotica. The tangents are so weird you kind of want to see what’ll happen next. Men in animal masks kidnap women and knock out Smith. Smith hooks up with a dude at the nude beach. Lorelei actually casts spells on Stella… sexual spells.

But really, even when the story comes together, it’s only been an exercise in crafting the most ridiculous premise possible and exploring teenage sexuality. The characters are casual, adventurous, experimental and frank, but never emotional. Both male and female bodies are glorified, and interchangeably (Smith doesn’t want to call himself bisexual).

The film’s attitude really works against it. It’s too clever, which really means it thinks it’s clever. Stella is just the typical snarky curmudgeon. She references Lady Gaga and refers to gay sex as “downloading his har drive.” She says college is just the filler between high school and real life. Wow, that’s deep, girl. Smith wonders if cinema will still be around in a few years. Hello, it will be because it makes money. Duh. His mom (Kelly Lynch) calls him “asshole” affectionately. Isn’t that ironic?

The filmmaking is visually interesting. Lighting flares really change the viewer’s perception on a sex scene. The magic effects in the witchcraft really do look otherworldly. At least it’s not the same old lame CGI. Actually hearing the noises of oral sex, I’ve got to give the foley artist props for that one.

The film has a sense of humor about being weird and plays it up. Lorelei’s reaction to a breakup is literally crazy. I definitely think it knows that the payoff is a nonsensical threading together of elements randomly established. If it weren’t so mundane with the attitude and references, it might have been a fun ride. At least it’s not boring.