Writer/director Gregg Araki returns with Kaboom, a hyper-stylized, sex-drenched teenage romp that presents itself as a psychosexual murder mystery and turns into a wacky conspiracy-theory dark comedy, complete with secret societies and the threat of a nuclear holocaust. Araki draws upon themes presented in his acclaimed mid-’90s indie filcks, The Doom Generation and Nowhere, and brings the same relentless eroticism, alienated adolescent hijinks, and So-Cal witticisms to a film that’s both a little campy and a little trashy.
Kaboom centers on Smith (Thomas Dekker), a bisexual college freshman who fantasizes about hooking up with his bleach-blond surfer-dude roommate, but settles instead for sexually free British student London (Juno Temple). He’s been haunted by a series of recurring dreams starring people from his life and two girls whom he’s never met, but things get weird when the two girls show up in his waking life -- first, Lorelei (Roxane Mesquida), a dark-haired magic aficionado who’s involved in a fatal-attraction situation with his best friend, Stella (Haley Bennett), and second, a red-haired girl who is being pursued by a gang of assassins. Next thing you know, Smith finds himself involved in a plot surrounding a murdered coed, a secret society, and the mystery of his father’s disappearance. But has Smith stumbled into a plot with possible world-changing consequences? Or is it all just a drug-induced hallucination?
It’s fair to say that Araki is channeling the films of Richard Kelly. By combining the lucid dreams and existential musings of Donnie Darko with the apocalyptic undertones of Southland Tales, Kaboom isn’t so much an homage as it is a parody. Visually, the film oscillates between bursts of pop colors and quick-cut over-the-top antics that work when the film eventually shifts gears and descends into glorious delirium, yet with a schizophrenic plot that fails to support the screwy tangents, the film fizzles out.
Maybe Araki is too nostalgic as he returns to the preoccupations and youthful trademarks that characterized his previous endeavors. He pours every ounce of the fever-dream teenage fantasy that he has left into a vehicle that can’t support the weight. Still, Kaboom has its champions -- it earned the Queer Palm award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival -- and it’ll be enjoyable for those drawn to wildly campy teenage sex comedies.
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- Released: 2010
- Rating: NR
- Review: Writer/director Gregg Araki returns with Kaboom, a hyper-stylized, sex-drenched teenage romp that presents itself as a psychosexual murder mystery and turns into a wacky conspiracy-theory dark comedy, complete with secret societies and the threat of a nucl… (more)