The Binge wastes a lovely premise and a motivated Vince Vaughn on yet another “best night ever” teen party comedy.
The Binge really does have a wonderful elevator pitch: what if we applied the rules of The Purge to booze and drugs? In a teetotaling future version of America, all drugs and alcohol are banned. As the propagandistic narration by a Morgan Freeman imitator tells us, this has led to a mass diminution of crime. But for 12 hours, once per year, society gets the outlet of The Binge that sees all manner of crazy partying allowed once more.
The pitch invites the anarchic possibility of something like last year’s Game Night. Perhaps the laziest outcome for this pitch ends up with a pack of high schoolers looking to have the “Best Night Ever” and that’s alas where we end up: a new version of Project X instead of something genuinely creative. Booksmart showed us just last year that even that sort of story can still have real resonance today. The Binge has no interest in profundity.
Skyler Gisondo (the Vacation remake) stars as the nerdy guy who aims to finally declare his love for his lifelong crush. Gisondo is a reasonably charismatic presence, but he frequently seems bored. His usual deadpan energy seems muted perhaps because he’s in his mid-20s and is still trapped playing a 17 year old virgin. Dexter Darden (The Maze Runner series) plays the cliché horndog.
The role comes off as starkly unlikable. Eduardo Franco (Booksmart) plays the oddball, outsider of the group but he simply does not have much to do. Rounding out the cast is Vince Vaughn as the kids’ school principal. Vaughn seems surprisingly engaged with the material, and brings a flicker of his old acerbic Old School and Wedding Crashers era humor to the proceedings.
But the fundamental problem with this movie, like many others in the genre, is that watching other people get drunk and party is just not very interesting. There’s little a director can do to simulate the energy of a boozy party beyond abuse your senses with loud music and staccato editing. There’s no character development in rounds of shots, so, if a film has failed to build protagonists worthy of interest, party scenes are just a dreary grind.
There is one moment of loony brilliance in the film. After some drugs, our characters break out in a Broadway-style song and dance about sex acts and chasing the dragon. For a few minutes, the staid direction livens into something engaging and creative. The actors seem to come alive with the film’s best jokes presented in musical form. I want to see the movie that director makes, instead of the lovely concept wasted here.