By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
That Darn Punk bad, Vandals good. Good musicians, at least, but definitely not good filmmakers. The Vandals, one of the oldest OC-born punk-era bands still breathing, have made a straight-to-video movie, y'see. And as bands-doing-movie-projects go, the Vandals in That Darn Punk tops the Village People in Can't Stop the Music but doesn't quite attain the standard of epic greatness set by the Bee Gees in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Which is to say that, yeah, it sucks. Big, steamy, hairy fuckballs of suckage, actually. But it's punk rock, so maybe it ought to. Better is the soundtrack, which you can buy separately and which has some decent tunes on it from the Vandals, Nerf Herder and Ozma, among others.
Shot for a paltry $21,000, That Darn Punk is the first feature from the film division of Kung Fu Records, the label run by the Vandals' Joe Escalante. Conveniently, it also stars Escalante as Dirk, a bassist in a punk rock band (no stretch there) called the Big Tippers (the Vandals, actually) who gets caught by his girlfriend smack in the middle of coitus with another woman and then gets drugged and kidnapped. He then wakes up facedown on a dry lakebed, clad only in his socks and boxers, as two grizzled, gun-toting guys hover over him—one of whom wants to play Siegfried to Dirk's Roy.
From there—and you know you're in trouble when it takes half an hour just to get to "from there"—the flick devolves into what is mostly a lame excuse to poke not-very-much fun at tired subjects: conspiracy theorists, New Age cultists, space aliens, tuba players, rednecks with Billy-Bob teeth, inebriated Asians, blah, blah, blah. And how often can you trudge over the old oh-shit-I've-hitched-a-ride-with-a-nutcase scene? Writers Jeff Richardson (who also directed) and Robert Stinson take a run at it at least three times in That Darn Punk, only noteworthy for the scene in which the demented cabby starts ranting to Dirk about the roadhouse that's "next to a punk bar," an obvious allusion to the Cuckoo's Nest/Zubie's clashes of 20 years ago, which the original Vandals were a part of (sample dialogue: "On a Friday night, we used to hang out in our truck and kick the shit outta those fuckin' punk queers! I hate those motherfuckers! And have you heard that shit they call music?!? Jesus Christ!").
Speaking of dialogue, That Darn Punk would be a good film-school primer in bad scripting. In one scene, a horny female reaches into her purse for a business card and instead pulls out a condom. "Ooooh," she coos, "I guess I don't need that yet." And when people are uttering lines like "Don't worry, no one will ever know," well, you know someone'sgonna know. Escalante looks bored most of the time, except during the supposedly serious scenes in which he's obviously trying to keep from laughing.
There's actually a semblance of a message here, oddly enough—something about how we should spend more time with the people we love and how sometimes, the best things in life are right in front of us and we'd all better realize this before it's too late. But, as it turns out, the whole thing's one big, long dream sequence anyway—which explains a lot . . . ZZZZZZZZZZ.