Take the “smart” out of “Booksmart,” the “super” out of “Superbad” and the edge out of “The Purge,” and you get the Hulu movie “The Binge,” one of the worst comedies of this or any other year, notable only because it features what might just be the most terrible performance in Vince Vaughn’s up-and-down career, and I say that with no glee because I’m a Vince Vaughn guy.
Vaughn tries valiantly but fails to wring some laughs out of the part of Principal Carlsen, a fast-talking ball of strange who presides over an American high school known as American High School (HA!) in the year 2032, when it’s illegal to use, sell or manufacture all forms of alcohol and narcotics — except for the one day a year when the embargo is lifted for 12 hours and you can go nuts without repercussions. What could possibly go right?
“The Binge” follows the misadventures of three 18-year-old seniors who will be imbibing for the first time: the earnest good guy Griffin (Skyler Gisondo, who actually was in “Booksmart”), the wisecracking and troublemaking Hags (Dexter Darden) and the deeply weird Andrew (Eduardo Franco). As these three not particularly likable goofs stumble through the day and eventually a wild and crazy night, they sound like actors who have just emerged from a table read and have memorized the script. Rarely, if ever, do their exchanges feel natural. (And yet the verbal banter is still not quite as deadly as the visual gags and the frantic and dopey party sequences.)
Grace Van Dien plays Principal Carlsen’s daughter, Lena, who is absolutely flabbergasted when she receives a promposal from a secret admirer. Why she is flabbergasted is anyone’s guess, given she’s a sweet and smart and lovely girl. Nevertheless, flabbergasted she is, and flabbergasted she remains, until she finally learns the identity of the lucky fella. Lena’s overprotective father goes to great lengths, and we mean GREAT LENGTHS, to keep her from going on a binge, which leads up to one of the more unbelievably stupid finales in recent motion picture history.
In addition to the flat performances and the virtually laugh-free script, “The Binge” suffers from some seriously clunky editing, where even a two-character exchange is shot in such a way as to take us out of the story and wonder WHY certain choices were made. Being in the same room as this movie is like getting stuck at a table at a wedding reception with the drunkest and most obnoxious guy in attendance. All you can do is count the minutes until the sweet relief of the night coming to an end.