#337) Good Burger (1997)

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#337) Good Burger (1997)

OR “All That and a Side of Fries”

Directed by Brian Robbins

Written by Dan Schneider and Kevin Kopelow & Heath Seifert. Based on the novel by James Joyce.

Class of 2010

The Plot: Ed (Kel Mitchell) is the likeable yet simple-minded cashier at local fast food establishment Good Burger. New hire Dexter Reed (Kenan Thompson) is forced to take a summer job at the restaurant to pay off his debt with his teacher (Sinbad). As the summer starts, Good Burger faces stiff competition from corporate chain Mondo Burger and its intense owner Kurt (Jan Schweiterman). When Dexter samples Ed’s surprisingly delicious homemade sauce, they strike a business deal and start using the sauce on their burgers. Business picks up, but is it enough to save Good Burger?

Why It Matters: The NFR calls the film a “comical character study” that “holds up impeccably today”. Special mention goes to the film’s “deft, innovative” screenplay, as well as Thompson and Mitchell being “[a]s gifted in their repartee as they were in their physical antics”.

But Does It Really?: Oh of course. While not as infallible as the NFR will lead you to believe, “Good Burger” is cinema’s definitive buddy comedy. A strong combination of farce and pathos, the film’s well-founded structure is aided by the undeniable chemistry between Kenan and Kel. A film whose seismic impact has already been felt by every comedy since 1997, “Good Burger” is still an enjoyable romp, and an obvious choice for the NFR.

Shout Outs: Brief allusions to “Shaft” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, as well as obvious homages to “Raging Bull” (the mini-golf double date) and “Citizen Kane” (Dexter’s yo-yo as a symbol of his lost childhood).

Everybody Gets One: Kenan Thompson had already made a handful of movies (including fellow NFR entry “Heavy Weights”) when he joined the cast of Nickelodeon’s sketch comedy show “All That”. There, Thompson met fellow actor Kel Mitchell, and the two collaborated on a sketch that would evolve into “Good Burger”, originally performed in the “ten-to-one” slot on an episode hosted by Leslie Nielsen.

Wow, That’s Dated: I will disagree with the NFR’s stance that “Good Burger” is timeless. The main giveaways are the film’s ska soundtrack and quick references to “American Gladiators”, Blockbuster Video and the UPN network.

Take a Shot: “Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?”

Seriously, Oscars?: Despite mixed critical and box office reception, “Good Burger” managed an Oscar nomination in its most deserving category: Adapted Screenplay. The writing team lost to odds-on favorite “L.A. Confidential”, though many insiders dismissed that film’s victory as “typical Oscar snobbery”.

Other notes

  • Right from the beginning, the film expands upon the original in the right places. The world of Good Burger is given more texture and dimension, while Ed’s opening dream delves deep into our protagonist’s uncharted psyche.
  • For the record, “Good Burger” is the Sinbad movie that does exist.
  • The other ‘90s giveaway: the use of Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration”, which we would often play to celebrate good times come on.
  • A tip of my hat to the film’s sound department. The strategic use of cartoon sound effects aids the film’s comedy, rather than detracts.
  • I’m still holding out for a “Sweeney Todd” reveal that Ed’s secret sauce is made from murdered customers.
  • Surprise guest star Shaquille O’Neal: newly signed to the Lakers and star of the 1996 genie movie “Kazaam”, not to be confused with “Shazaam”, the non-existent Sinbad genie movie.
  • Ed teases Dexter by “mooing” like a chicken, which begs the question: Has anyone in this movie ever even seen a chicken?
  • Another cameo; this time by “All That” alumni Lori Beth Denberg as the bubbly Connie Muldoon. This has been more Vital Information for your everyday life.
  • Ed and Dexter’s drag scene is a comic highlight, but it turns out Kenan’s cross-dressing days were numbered.
  • That’s Linda Cardellini (eight years away from “Brokeback Mountain”) in her film debut as Heather the mental patient. Side note: Was this her “Girl, Interrupted” audition tape?
  • Just when you think this film could not possibly top itself, along comes George Clinton, “(Not Just) Knee Deep”, and some questionable safety procedures from a mental institution.
  • Don’t worry, Sinbad; I appreciated your “This Old Homie” joke.
  • “I need a hot jacuzzi!” Genius. Pure genius.
  • But seriously, why so much property damage directed at Mr. Wheat? Is this all because he administered a test on the last day of school? Seems a bit extreme, don’t you think?
  • An entire film starring Kel Mitchell, and they don’t once mention his love of orange soda? What a rip-off!

Legacy

  • Talks for a “Good Burger” sequel began soon after the film’s release. “Good Burger 2 Go” would have followed Ed and Dexter in another attempt to save Ed’s secret sauce recipe from landing in the wrong hands. The film never came to pass (for now), but there is a novelization out there.
  • Kenan Thompson joined the cast of “SNL” in 2003, and is currently its longest-serving castmember.
  • While Kel Mitchell hasn’t achieved Kenan’s level of post-“Good Burger” acclaim, he has steadily worked in both TV and film in the past 20 years (including the underrated “X’s and O’s”).
  • Kel reprised his role of Ed (along with Kenan as a different character) for a 2015 sketch on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”.
  • Kenan & Kel recently announced they will be co-producing a revival of “All That”, set to debut in mid-2019. Mark your calendars!
  • And the greatest news of all: Kel Mitchell is still not dead!

Listen To This: “We’re All Dudes” by Less Than Jake (featuring Kel Mitchell) made the 2016 NRR cut, with the Registry hailing the song as “a work of incredible honesty” that “ultimately dramatizes the value of human life”. The song’s “painstaking recording session” is also highlighted.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Happy April Fools Day! Here’s the REAL #337.

Tony

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