Between the recent Pete Davidson movie Big Time Adolescence and now The Binge, Hulu is carving out a very specific niche for itself as the streaming home of druggy teen comedies filmed in the Syracuse, New York area*. And that's a great lane for them to be in, because they're currently batting 2-for-2 in putting out worthwhile little R-rated teen comedies.
The Binge, as you may be able to guess from the title, is inspired by The Purge, the horror franchise about an alternate reality where all crime is legal for one night of the year. In The Binge, there's one day where drugs are legal, but all other crime is still illegal. It follows three high school seniors, Griffin (The Righteous Gemstones' Skyler Gisondo), Hags (Dexter Darden), and Andrew (Booksmart's Eduardo Franco), as they participate in their first Binge. Griffin, a good kid who's going to Brown in the fall, is reluctant to participate, but his reckless best friend Hags pushes him into it, because it's Griffin's last chance to ask his crush Lena (Grace Van Dien) to the prom. And Hags has his own dream of winning "The Gauntlet," a mind-altering Binge tradition. They're joined on their quest by Andrew, a weird classmate with anger issues, and pursued by Principal Carleson (Vince Vaughn), their school principal who also happens to be Lena's father and doesn't want her Bingeing.
The Binge isn't exactly a parody of The Purge, limiting the connection between the two to an opening credit sequence that riffs on the memorable opening of The Purge by replacing that movie's security camera footage of violent acts with cell phone footage of frat boys doing dumb drunken stunts, and pretty quickly abandons Purge-influenced plotting in favor of a Superbad-derived plot where the boys are trying to get to a party in order to impress the girls they like. Griffin is the Michael Cera, Hags is the Jonah Hill, and Andrew is the McLovin with a violent streak. It's not original, but this isn't the kind of movie you watch for originality. It's a low-stakes hangout movie that provides some laughs and a good time. It's a perfect late summer streaming movie that works better at home on TV than it would in a theater. If the price of admission is included in your Hulu subscription, a lack of narrative ambition is easier to forgive.
Most importantly, the movie is funny. It has a stoned silliness where making sense is secondary to the gag, which means there are myriad little non sequiturs like Vince Vaughn saying "Guys, I've only got two hobbies, only two things I really spend my time on, and that's my woodworking — my elves — and that's making hummus." Vaughn is in classic Old School form here, delivering absurd dialogue in his signature motormouthed, authoritative style. Some of the younger actors get stuck with jokes in the annoying "I'm gonna stop talking now" style of comedy, but those self-conscious moments are balanced with lunacy like a mushroom-induced musical number called "We're Gonna Get High."
The Binge is profane, derivative, and socially irresponsible. What's not to like?
*The Binge director Jeremy Garelick founded a production company called American High with the stated mission of making John Hughes-style R-rated teen comedies. American High bought a decommissioned high school in tax-friendly Syracuse that it converted into a studio, so that's the explanation for that. American High is cool, check them out.
The Binge releases on Hulu Friday, Aug. 28.