Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Before I Fall

The deplorable “Fist Fight” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.  

The high concept pitch for “Before I Fall” is pretty straight forward: It’s “Groundhog Day” meets “Mean Girls.” The one key difference is that unlike those two movies, “Before I Fall” is not a comedy and rather takes a darker, more serious approach. For the most part, it works.

The mean girls in question are a clique comprised of the sweet and down to Earth Samantha (Zoey Deutch), queen bee super bitch Lindsay (Halston Sage), and the relatively interchangeable Ally (Cynthy Wu) and Elody (Medalion Rahimi). The date is Friday, February 12—also known as “Cupid Day” at their high school. We go through this one day as the girls drive to school together, get flowers from admirers, go to a party, and get into an accident. Then the day is repeated over and over again for Samantha until she figures out what to do to make things right.

One of the great things about the way “Before I Fall” begins is that it gives Samantha somewhere to go. She’s rude to her family before she leaves for the day, especially to her sweet little sister Izzy (Erica Tremblay), who just wants to make sure Samantha has her gloves. A young man named Kent (Logan Miller), who has apparently had a crush on her since the third grade, gives her a unique-looking flower and she discards it in favor of the ordinary one from her d-bag boyfriend (Kian Lawley) whom she plans on letting de-flower her that night. Then there’s Juliet (Elena Kampouris), the frumpy, awkward girl who these four pick on. The girls say they don’t hate her, but it’s obvious they do—out of fear that they would ever become like her and not be pretty and popular.

Oh yes, these four are the pretty, popular, jock dating, make up loving, spoiled rich girly girl types. In other words, the exact types of people who 95% of the population absolutely cannot stand, and as such, they are perfect for a good comeuppance. It’s the reason why these types of characters are so prominent in slasher movies. Whether you want to admit it or not, you look forward to them getting killed in the most elaborate, grisly way possible. Come on—yes you do. Are you really cheering for the big-breasted bimbo cheerleader to escape the knife wielding maniac? Or are you looking forward to him catching her and practicing his carving skills? Be honest.

But I digress, as this is not a slasher movie. Having these types of girls as the protagonists in “Before I Fall” helps the movie. Samantha goes through various stages as she repeats the day over and over. One of the stages is a bad girl/rebel stage in which she tells Lindsay what she really thinks of her. It’s as close to a slasher movie level of catharsis as we get. My only gripe is that I wish it was harsher and more devastating. Samantha feels like she’s pulling her verbal punches and not really letting loose. It’s a decent effort, but lacks the emotional impact a scene like that should have.

“Before I Fall” is entertaining, and it also provides some food for thought. Living one day over and over again can be either a curse or a blessing. It’s whatever a person makes out of it. The important thing is to live every day as if it is a blessing, and don’t take anything—or anyone—for granted. Rent it.

Also New This Week

Fist Fight

“Fist Fight” borrows the plot of the classic 1987 comedy “Three O’Clock High,” but instead of students, the bully and the nerd are both teachers. If only “Fist Fight” had borrowed some semblance of comedy as well, it might have also been funny. Instead we get a movie that tries way too hard, opting for limp (pun intended) dick jokes and an unfunny subplot in which a female teacher (the otherwise very funny Jillian Bell, wasted here) lusts after a young male student. Disturbing? Yes. Funny? No.

The movie stars Charlie Day as shlubby beta-type English professor Andy Campbell, and Ice Cube as hardened, ill-tempered alpha-type Strickland. It’s the last day of the school year, the teachers are up for review, and the principal (Dean Norris) is on a rampage, laying off faculty left and right. After an incident involving some A/V equipment, a cell phone, an obnoxious student (Austin Zajur), a desk, and an axe, Andy and Strickland are called in front of the principal to explain what happened. Andy needs his job since a baby is on the way, so he tells the truth about what happened. Big mistake—teachers are supposed to have each other’s backs against the administration. Now Strickand is raging mad and insists that he and Andy duke it out at 3 pm, after the end of the school day.

This leads Andy to do whatever he can to avoid the fight, and all sorts of unfunny hijinks ensue, like Andy having to buy multiple MacBook Pros, or a flat scene in which Andy plants some drugs in Strickland’s office to try to get him arrested. Even the very funny Kumail Nanjiani as a school security guard, whose wry, “I’m already ten steps ahead of you in this conversation” style of delivery usually cracks me up, can’t save a scene that is D.O.A. There’s also an unnecessary subplot involving Andy having to get to a recital for this daughter Ally (Alexa Nisenson), culminating in a painfully unfunny, over the top performance of a profanity-laced song that goes on for way too long. The crowd’s reaction is contrived as well.

Another thing I didn’t buy is Strickland’s supposed real motivation for the fight. It feels tacked on--a desperate effort to soften the character and make him more likeable. I’m not sure if a more straightforward plot would have made “Fist Fight” any better, but it would be difficult to make this movie much worse. Skip it.

More New Releases: “The Shack,” about a grieving man who is invited into a shack to talk to God, starring Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, and Radha Mitchell; “Collide,” about a backpacker from the U.S. who gets on the wrong side of drug smugglers in Munich, starring Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones, Ben Kingsley, and Anthony Hopkins; and “Blackenstein,” 1973 blaxploitation movie that tried to cash in on the success of “Blacula” but failed miserably.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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