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Cranky Critic® movie reviews:

SLC Punk!

Starring Matthew Lillard
Written and Directed by James Merendino
website: www.spe.sony.com/classics/slcpunk/

IN SHORT: Yech.

Speaking as a firsthand Observer to the birth of Punk back in the 1970s, Cranky can report that In The Beginning Punk was... Fun. The music rocked, the dress code was like Halloween everyday of the year, and yes, we affected English accents (Northwestern University's WNUR had a DJ named Jonathan Baker who was one of the first to play Sex Pistols music on American Radio. C'est moi.) Yes, it was a great way to get laid. The folk that took it "seriously" were either English or considered very strange. That lasted about a year.

Somewhere after the time that The Sex Pistols were refused entry to this country (which was New Year's Eve 1976/77 I think. I had tickets to the show) Punk began to take on areal "us against them" mentality. When the kids made it into a lifestyle, the scene turned violent and all the fun disappeared. Of course, those of us that were there at the beginning had grown up. The kids that took it "seriously" were usually living off parental handouts or hoping for welfare. Poseurs all.

It's somehow fitting that the last place you would expect to think Punk is the setting for SLC Punk!, which is enjoyable for about the first 30 minutes. It then begins to resemble the kind of rant that comes along the with a really good Thai stick rush. Since we learn that Punk was really about beating up on lower forms of rednecks and poseurs (mods, new wavers and so on), and getting very high, that last reference is appropriate.

In Salt Lake City, 1985, blue haired Stevo (Matthew Lillard) attempts to explain what the entire scene was about. Sometimes it has a documentary feel, many times Stevo breaks the fourth wall. All the time SLC Punk! looks like a overthought indie flick. Though Stevo makes a great effort to detail what music was Punk and what attitudes were not, this scene is all about anarchy, a politically attractive idea only to those living off the parental (or government) dole. Which is pretty much the case here. (Steve castigates his friend, Bob, because "only poseurs fall in love with girls." Right. Bite me.)

SLC Punk! is such a precious project it makes me want to vomit. Try as you might to figure out who everybody it is, it's a good 20 minutes until you are introduced to the characters. They're good characters: Heroin Bob (Michael Goorjian) doesn't do drugs, ever; Mike the Nerd (Jason Segel) doesn't look the part but has a very short fuse; Trish (Annabeth Gish) runs the local head shop and is way too smart for these kidlets; Sandy (Jennifer Lien) is The Girl; As roles for actors to fill, each character is distinct, but getting through the rant and the rave (mentioned above) is hard work. Big name directors have never managed to visualize an acid high on screen, and writer/director James Merendino's attempt is a futile exercise in film editing. An hour in you finally reach what story there is. Once the cultural stuff a set up, there are only two possible endings: either the characters grow up, or they crashed into some sort of useless life. Both will happen. By that time Cranky didn't care. Neither will you.

Since bits and pieces are based on Merendino's life, I'll accept his word that there were Mods in SLC in the mid 80s. Cranky was working in the music business then and, apart from seeing it represented by the film version of Quadrophenia, he never saw it in the kidlets or heard it in the music. I despised the violence but still liked the punks. It was the kidlets dressing up like Boy George that scared the hell out of me . . .

Honestly? Cranky was really looking forward to SLC Punk!, which features enough "classic Punk" (or other relevant music of that era) that it could have been interesting. If this movie was about music it probably would've been a lot more fun. As a portrait of the lifestyle, it gets tired real fast. Let's be honest folks, The Specials were never a punk band and Blondie gave that image up real early in their career. "Dreaming," the song featured in this soundtrack is probably their best song ever. Also on the CD are tunes by the Velvet Underground, Adam and the Ants, The Stooges, The Ramones and The Dead Kennedys. It's a better buy than the movie ticket.

Cranky admits, though, that he was boppin' his head. I should send a thank you card to my neurosurgeon, complimenting on his good work.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to SLC Punk!, he would have paid...

$1.50

I was a punk before you were a punk. SLC Punk! isn't even a good rental.

Click Here!
The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is  Copyright © 1995-2008 by, Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, T their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy AwardT(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is  Copyright © 1995  -  2013 by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.