Bad Lizard 

Broken Lizard's newest spoof is guilty of mediocrity.

Broken Lizard's Club Dread is a whole lot better than the comedy troupe's last feature Super Troopers. Unfortunately, measured by any other standard, it's simply a mediocre effort, the sort of laid-back slasher comedy with gratuitous tit shots companies like Troma have been cranking out for years, usually with better gore effects on a lower budget.

Given Broken Lizard's cinematic output, it's tempting to rename the troupe Broken Record, as it has tended to take worn-out ideas and present them in worn-out fashion in order, I assume, to give us a good laugh at the lameness of it all. At least Club Dread delivers a few laughs at the expense of its easy target (that'd be the Friday the 13th movies and all their clones), where their Police Academy wanna-be Super Troopers induced none.

The setting for this story is Pleasure Island, which, in Pirates of the Caribbean style, looks like a skull from a bird's-eye view, though the skull in this case looks more like that of Donnie Darko's menacing Frank the Bunny. We begin as a couple of harebrained youngsters walk into the woods, smoke pot, have sex, desecrate a graveyard, and finally engage in a threesome with another young hottie inside an ancient crypt, only to awaken a machete killer in some kind of black fur costume, who promptly does what comes naturally. These clichés are so hoary we know them by heart, but there's a nice amount of one-upmanship to the sequence that really should have been put to use more often in the film.

Pleasure Island turns out to be the domain of Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton), a booze-addled burnout musician in the Jimmy Buffett mold who looks and sounds almost exactly like The Muppet Show's Rowlf the Dog. In Pete's hands, the place has become a permanent spring break-style resort for beautiful youngsters to get drunk and have sex, and the staff -- naturally -- is made up of the Broken Lizard guys. Erik Stolhanske plays Sam, the "Fun Police"; Paul Soter is Pete's nephew Dave, the resident DJ; Steve Lemme affects an over-the-top Latin accent as diving instructor Juan Castillo; Super Troopers MVP Kevin Heffernan plays it relatively straight as masseur Lars; and director Jay Chandrasekhar is Putman Livingston, a dreadlocked tennis instructor with a snooty English accent. Filling out the cast are Joe Dirt's Brittany Daniel as a fitness instructor who also is one of the many staff babes required to have sex with guests, familiar character actor M.C. Gainey as head of security, The Specials' Jordan Ladd as a good girl gone bad, and soap opera veteran Lindsay Price as Yu, a waitress whose name is played for cheap and obvious misunderstandings (Yu get it? Thought so).

If you enjoy laughing at stupid frat-boy types, there are many opportunities to do so during Club Dread's first third or thereabouts. Also amusing is a sequence seemingly designed to foreshadow the killer's identity, which ends up leaving virtually every character harboring a ridiculously petty grudge as a possible motive for murder. But as the killer begins to off people, the supporting cast of idiot vacationers is mostly ignored, and the principals pared down by attrition to the Broken Lizard guys, who, generally speaking, are the least funny characters in the film. They sure can crack themselves up, however, as the end-credit outtakes prove.

Gagwise, the gang scores one conceptual home run, which won't be spoiled here, but suffice it to say it involves the coolest Pac-Man reference ever. When it comes to verbal wit, on the other hand, we get lines such as "You just shat in the wrong apple pie that knows how to shit back!" Then there's Lemme's "funny" accent, which has him, for instance, pronounce the word "us" as "ass." Tee-hee. Chandrasekhar's preposterous snooty Brit is the scene-stealer of the troupe, limply lobbing tennis balls at the killer and remaining the only soul on the island too woefully uncool to get laid.

As a distraction, we get to see virtually every actress get topless at one point or another, which may be enough of a draw for some. If that's a selling point for you, though, you'd be better off going to see Eurotrip, which has even more nudity, funnier dumb frat boys, and a better sense of humor in general. Better yet, it doesn't feature a troupe of five comedians who think they're a whole lot more amusing than they are. The Broken Lizard gang brings the best out of Bill Paxton, only to abandon him in the second half and focus on themselves. A bit more humility might have served them in better stead.

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