The key to any good film is having a vision of what you want to show the audience. It doesn’t matter what the genre is; if you only have a general concept and nothing else, your film will rarely work. The makers of the new Hulu film The Binge obviously never got past the idea stage when they set out to make it.
A take-off of the horror film The Purge, The Binge takes place in a highly-fictional world where all alcohol and drugs have been banned except for one day a year when anyone 18 or older is allowed to binge to their heart’s desire. Griffin (Skyler Gisondo) doesn’t have a huge desire to participate, but his best friend Hags (Dexter Darden) is all for it, so Griffin goes along for the ride.
What ensues is boilerplate material when it comes to teen comedies, as Griffin and Hags run into all sorts of trouble trying to make it to the biggest party of Binge Day. Other issues include Griffin missing opportunities to ask Lena (Grace Van Dien) to prom; Principal Carlsen (Vince Vaughn), who happens to be Lena’s father, out to ruin everyone’s good time; and Andrew (Eduardo Franco) continually leading Griffin and Hags astray.
Directed by Jeremy Garelick and written by Jordan VanDina, the film works neither as a parody of The Purge nor as a teen comedy. In fact, it barely works as a movie at all. The slapdash effort put into the film shows right from the start, as they use generic footage for interstitial scenes, insert random sex jokes to make the script “edgy,” and skip any kind of plot development for the sake of more wildness.
The film is so actively unfunny that it’s a wonder anyone making it thought it would work at all. The characters have no connection, and the situations they’re subjected to are so over-the-top that they have no entertainment value. The only reason it remains watchable is due to the sheer charisma of Gisondo, Darden, and, to a lesser degree, Vaughn.
The one memorable scene is a musical number near the end of the film, but by that point it only registers as mild amusement compared to the complete lack of humor in the rest of the movie. The sequence leans hard into the euphoria and hallucination that comes with the booze and drugs the boys have taken over the course of the film, and it’s so ridiculous that you can’t help but at least chuckle.
Both Gisondo and Franco had memorable supporting roles in 2019’s Booksmart, which had such a similar base story to this film that The Binge pales in comparison. Gisondo is interesting in small bursts, but he doesn’t work as a leading man, at least not here. Darden is slightly better, but even his enthusiasm can’t save the horrid lines he has to deliver.
The Binge should serve as a cautionary tale for how not to make a movie, much less a comedy. Even a silly story with little at stake must take some kind of form or it to work.
The Binge debuts exclusively on Hulu on August 28.