“Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger. Can I take your order?” – Ed, asking people a great philosophical question.
Premiere: July 25th, 1997
Written By: Dan Schneider
Plot: Summer vacation starts off rather poorly for Dexter (Kenan Thompson) when, upon leaving math class and campus, he crashes his mom’s car into
Mr. Smiley’s his teacher’s new sedan. Without insurance. Or a drivers license. Mr. Wheat cuts a deal – Dexter can either pay for the damages or face the cops. To pay the $1900 estimate, he has to take a summer job – briefly at the newly-opened and dictatorially-run Mondo Burger, before working at the established and eccentric Good Burger. There, he works alongside Salvatore Tessio Otis, an elderly fry jockey, and strikes up a strange relationship with dimwitted Ed (Kel Mitchell). Puns ensue, especially when Dexter and Ed get caught up in the competition rat race.
Yup, I’m taking on a 1997 film about burger joints, starring Kenan and Kel, with side appearances from Sinbad and Abe Vigoda. And let’s be real here, it ain’t gonna win any awards for quality writing anytime soon. Still, how does this silly little movie hold up?
Good Burger mines a lot of its humor from its characters being dolts. Which is fine, honestly – because that’s their characters, and this is a comedy. Of course, you need some source of humor to fulfill your movie’s purpose as, well, a comedy. And, let’s be real here – we ain’t talking about sophisticated humor – most of it is “lowbrow”. But that ain’t bad, because it fits the tone. The silly, silly tone.
Would I consider a “Strawberry Jacuzzi” or “Grape Nose Boy” high art? No.Still, I guess an analysis has to be deeper than “this movie has some jokes, and I laughed at most of them.” So… here we go.
Dexter, the movie’s everyman, starts out as a lazy hedonist. All he wants to do is eat, party, and hang out with pretty girls. His first act of hedonism – driving his mom’s car without a license – becomes his downfall after (thanks to Ed) he crashes away $2000… and almost faces the clink. Once appointed at Good Burger, he bilks Ed out of much of the profits for his secret sauce to get through the summer easier. Nothing and nobody else matters – it’s Dexter’s quest for success first.
But the guilt eats away at him, partially because Ed is just so damn unflappable. And silly.
The very first scene of the movie has Ed dream about the burgers coming to life, before skating to work, causing hijinks (and inadvertently, Dexter’s car crash) along the way. He himself loves life, albeit more in a “goofball” way than a hedonistic way. In contrast to Dexter, though, Ed’s silliness complements a rather altruistic side. When Dexter pours his heart and soul out about his missing father, Ed uses the scant money made from his secret sauce (thanks, Dex) to give him a replica of the last thing his father gave him. Without a thought, apparently. It’s actually a rather moving scene. That, and Ed is able to make some rather quick deductions on how to stop Mondo Burger – using their own attempts at a market advantage against them. So his role isn’t a one-dimensional moron – and it works.
I will say, though, that they could’ve made Dexter’s development into a more selfless, active character a bit more convincing.
Other characters aren’t explored in too much depth – but that’s fine, as their roles work for the purpose of the script. Mr. Wheat’s the unlucky activist who winds up on the back end of Dexter and Ed’s misadventures, Otis is the elderly comic relief (although Abe Vigoda’s performance makes it hysterical instead of completely unnerving), Roxanne is the cherchez la femme attempt, and Kurt is the authoritarian and corrupt leader of Mondo Burger. While depth would be fantastic, I ain’t complaining.
Also, the plot is very, very silly. And this is where I’m done giving this movie a serious analysis. It starts with a fast food joint competing with an oversized franchise ruled by a dictator-wannabe. It rises to have three of the main characters committed in a mental asylum… where they break out by dancing to Parliament Funkadelic. Does it make much sense? Not really. Is it hilarious? Hell. Yes.
That pretty much sums up this movie. The script ain’t complex or groundbreaking – in fact, it’s a bit of a mess, with plot given a backseat to cramming as many puns and gags in as possible. Still, if you want to sink an hour and a half and laugh at (or with), you could do worse than Good Burger.
- One of the Demented Hills residents, Heather, is played by Linda Cardellini. Y’know, Wendy?
- Also there? George Clinton. Y’know… Parliament Funkadelic?
- This is only the second silliest movie that Shaquille O’Neil was featured in over a brief span of times. He was the star of Kazaam… a movie about a genie that raps. It’s widely considered one of the worst movies of all time. (Also, fellow basketball legend Michael Jordan starred in Space Jam. Ah, the 90s.)
- One pointless thing to note is that, during Shaq’s scene, the primary mic is that of UPN 13 Los Angeles. Nickelodeon is owned by Viacom, which also owned UPN until 2005. This product placement may have been the height of the UPN’s prestige.
- The decision to give Dexter some pathos by mentioning his absent father is a bit curious in a movie filled with “grape nose boy” and scenes of that nature. It’s aided by the payoff – Ed buying the yo-yo – but it’s still a bit out of place.
Favorite Scene: Escaping the mental hospital to Parliament Funkadelic! My god, I got down!
Best Character: Two-way tie between Mr. Wheat (because Mr. Smiley) and Otis (“Do you think you can get me to a hospital, I think I broke my ass!”)
Memorable Quote: Take a lucky guess…
Score: I’ve decided to give it my very first official No Score. Other things I’ve reviewed have been refused a score for the following reasons: a) they were so jaw-dropping that I couldn’t process a score in my mind, b) they were so bad that I would not consider it canon, or c) they were a three-part anthology.
However, this gets the official No Score because of its status of being so undeniably silly, that it goes back to being hysterical. I’m not gonna pretend that it’s a great work of art… but I’m not going to say that makes it unenjoyable.