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Kaboom

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Kaboom

MPI Home Video

Gregg Araki made his name in the 1990s with indie flicks that were aggressively young and ambi/sexual and trashy and stilted and, well, kinda crappy—see The Living End, Totally F***ed Up, The Doom Generation, et al. In 2004, he surprised nearly everyone with Mysterious Skin, adapting Scott Heim’s novel into an unbeatably strange yet sensitive tale of sexual abuse, hustling, and space aliens that put Hollywood on notice that star Joseph Gordon-Levitt was much more than that kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun and that Araki might be more than a bag of his usual tricks/tics. Anna Faris-starring stoner comedy Smiley Face followed; it wasn’t that funny, but hey, Anna Faris. Now Araki returns to his aggressively young, ambi/sexual, trashy, stilted, crappy roots with Kaboom. It’s like Mysterious Skin never happened.

Thomas Dekker plays 18-year-old Smith, a skinny bi college student struggling with his feelings for hunky, lunky surfer dormmate Thor (Chris Zylka), who is straight. Or straightish, anyway, even though he color-coordinates his many pairs of flip-flops. Smith falls into a FWB arrangement with brassy blond chick London (Juno Temple), while his BFF Stella (Haley Bennett) is bewitched by Lorelei (Roxane Mesquida)—literally, cause she’s a witch, see. A mysterious woman (Nicole LaLiberte) who looks like Carrot Top appears in Smith’s dreams, in danger, and then maybe disappears in real life. Or is it her twin? Drugstore Cowboy’s Kelly Lynch, looking very fit and very orange, phones it in (as in, on the phone) as Smith’s mom, ’cause his own mysterious past has something to do with this, as does the end of the world. But there’s always time for a threesome. And animal masks. And nearly unrecognizable vintage Araki superstar James Duval, who wore an animal mask in Donnie Darko, which was also sort of about the end of the world too. And that’s kinda how things go until they stop.

Dekker sure is pretty, and Bennett gives good deadpan. Araki gives her the best of his trademark faux youth-speak zingers, including one about something being as fun as “sucking a fart out of a dead seagull’s ass.” (Edgy.) How much you’re likely to enjoy this probably correlates to how much you enjoyed his pre-Mysterious Skin work, though it’s worth noting that Kaboom’s bubble-headed silliness wouldn’t be nearly so disappointing if all the signs of snap and assurance Araki displayed for a minute there hadn’t apparently gone up in smoke.

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