DVD Review: Kaboom

The latest film from indie auteur Gregg Araki, Kaboom is a candy-colored college comedy with apocalyptic overtones and doesn’t care who knows it.

It stars Thomas Dekker as Smith (first or last name? who knows? who cares?), a bisexual undergrad who nonetheless considers himself ambivalent about his sexuality. He lives with lunkhead straight guy Thor (Chris Zylka), hangs with catty lesbian pal Stella (Haley Bennett), and never seems to actually attend classes. He’s far too busy trying to decipher his cryptic nightmares, which often concern a missing redhead, and his uncertain sexual orientation, with which promiscuous exchange student London (Juno Temple) offers to help.

In pitch-speak, it’s Donnie Darko for aloof hipster types (as opposed to the “deep” hipster types already well-served by Richard Kelly’s mind-trip), and I’m not just saying that because James Duval plays a messiah of sorts in both films. Characters wear berets and fezzes to parties, where they mock one another for wearing berets and fezzes, and nonchalantly toss out topical references to Mel Gibson and poisoned Russian spies while piecing together a nutty puzzle (involving cult leaders, psychic agents, flashbacks, fantasies, and ulterior motives galore) and generally sleeping around with each other.

At 86 minutes, the film hurtles forward at a pace that is both relentless and merciful, with a tone that’s numbingly self-satisfied with its cheap look, grand scale, and utter absence of personal stakes. Dekker, Bennett, and Temple are all good sports whether Araki is asking them to star in a faux-outrageous sex romp or an exceedingly outrageous conspiracy thriller, depending on the scene. Alas, Kaboom is designed to have its own fun, filled to the brim with bangs of all kinds but mostly landing with a whimper.

The film comes to DVD with a perfectly vibrant transfer and a feature-length commentary by Araki and Dekker that alternates between resourceful production anecdotes and reciprocal praise for one another’s work (to hear it from them, the reception at Cannes was nigh rapturous). Extras also include a shruggable outtake reel and 15 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary, much of which is even more fawning than that of the feature.

Kaboom is available now on DVD.

Movie & TV Awards 2018