Good Burger (1997)

20 Apr

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Smith’s Verdict: **

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Good Burger” is more targeted for the young Nickelodeon crowd than the cynical adults and teenagers who would rather be watching something like “Austin Powers” for their lighthearted entertainment. Though, to be fair, I wouldn’t mind anyone enjoying this film, despite my negative review. It’s like this—I can’t recommend the movie to anyone over the age of 11 or 12, but I can see why it can be entertaining even for them. It’s likeable, good-natured, at times pretty funny, and entertaining. However, it’s also sporadically funny, occasionally stupid, at (some) times mean-spirited, and thus making it inconsistently entertaining.

“Good Burger” is based on the popular sketch on the Nickelodeon comedy series “All That,” though even those who aren’t affiliated with the sketch will catch on quick (there’s nothing too important to remember that isn’t caught up with in the movie). It stars Kel Mitchell as Ed, an unbelievably dim-witted counter guy working at Good Burger, a small-town fast food joint employed with as much diversity as possible—including a vegetarian; an aging old man (Abe Vigoda); and a large weirdo named Spatch (Ron Lester) who swats a fly on his forehead with a spatula and then eats it. And apparently, Ed is the only one who can work the cash register, as we see in an opening scene, Ed is late and everyone else is calling for him.

Good Burger has some serious competition right across the street—the exaggeratedly huge Mondo Burger, managed by neo-Nazi Kurt (Jan Schwieterman), who plans to take Good Burger down by selling more burgers. (These burgers, I might add, are also ridiculously large. It even weighs Spatch’s spatula down.)

Kenan Thompson (Kel Mitchell’s partner-in-crime on Nickelodeon’s “Kenan and Kel”) plays Dexter Reed, a teenage slacker who is looking forward to spending summer vacation without the annoyance of a summer job. But bad luck occurs when Dexter winds up hitting the car of his teacher Mr. Wheat (Sinbad, portraying a Shaft wannabe—by the way, I love the part where he spins briefly to the tune of “Shaft”), even without a license and borrowing his mom’s car. Dexter needs money to pay for the car, and so he meets Ed, who gives him the job of Good Burger’s delivery boy.

With Mondo Burger becoming more popular every day, and Good Burger slowly going out of business, Dexter comes up with the idea to put upon their own burgers a special, delicious, secret sauce, invented by Ed. Ed’s sauce becomes a big hit, which of course makes Good Burger Kurt’s personal enemy.

“Good Burger” is not for everybody, simply because it’s mostly a kid movie. There are so many contrivances that only the Nickelodeon crowd will appreciate—a bizarre opening-credit sequence in which Ed unwittingly causes mayhem on his way to work (a baby and a basketball are switched at one point); the slapstick-induced sequence in which a sexy Mondo Burger spy named Roxanne attempts to seduce Ed, which ends painfully; and let’s not forget the whole deal late in the film about how Kurt has Ed and Dexter committed to an insane asylum, from which they must escape via stolen ice cream truck, as the bad guys give chase. This movie is all over the map.

Oh, and there’s also an attempt to have a genuine moment, involving a backstory about Dexter’s late father. How can you take this scene seriously when it’s clumsily fitted into a movie with a scene such as the one where Ed shoves grapes in his nostrils and constantly chants, “Bloobity bloobity bloobity”?

But there are some things I do like about it. Foremost is Kel Mitchell as Ed. While a lot of the script’s jokes aren’t very funny on paper, Mitchell’s delivery of them is just priceless. Mitchell portrays Ed as just so dumb, but does playfully so that it’s hard not to like him. Kel Mitchell is the real reason to check out “Good Burger.” He is immensely funny and likeable.

Here’s an example of Ed’s behavior—he’s asked what would look great on a corndog, to which he responds, “A turtleneck?” And also, whenever the shake machine is broken, he actually gets inside it to fix it and emerges in pink goop. My favorite moment, though, is at the end, when we see just how amazingly bright Ed is when he has to be.

Kenan Thompson, as straight-man to Ed’s antics, is an effective foil—first, Dexter is confused by Ed’s behavior, then he’s annoyed quickly, then he decides to take advantage of him so that he gets most of the money Ed makes for his sauce (Ed is oblivious to this, of course), and then he decides to tolerate him, as they both set out to see exactly what Mondo Burger is up to with their food (is Mondo Burger using illegal food additives?). And Thompson has a few funny moments as well, particularly when he’s stammering while coming up with the right thing to say in certain situations. And there’s also a sweet romantic subplot involving him and a co-worker named Monique (Shar Jackson), who dates him because of how Ed takes to him as a buddy. (“Whomever he likes can’t be all that bad,” she admits.)

I can’t necessarily recommend “Good Burger,” but I do give the filmmakers (particularly director Brian Robbins and co-writers Kevin Kopelow, Heath Seifert, and Dan Schneider—the third one portrays Good Burger’s manager) credit for the film’s good nature and I have to admit that I find myself going back to the film every now and then to see the parts that I like. Maybe I could recommend the film just for myself. But then again, I started watching this movie when I was a little kid, obsessed with Nickelodeon. Maybe you could call it nostalgia. But I don’t know. There are some movies out there that I loved when I was a kid that have not held up at all now (like “Angels in the Outfield,” for example), so what does that say?

I don’t know, but I’m giving “Good Burger” a negative review, but also an affectionate review.

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