The Beach

Sometimes you have to make your own fun during a movie.

Take for example The Beach. This was one of the first movies Leonardo DiCaprio released post-Titanic, back when he was at peak heart-throb. It is the story of a young adrift American named Richard who went to Thailand looking for adventure and who ended up getting more than he bargained for. All he wanted to do was hang out with some hot women, smoke some grass, get a tan - but he ended up having to fight off hungry sharks and armed drug dealers.

It all started when Daffy, an obvious whackjob who was also staying at Richard's hostel, offered to give our hero a map to a secret island paradise. A sane person would have recognized that this offer was too good to be true, but Richard wan't that sane - or maybe he wasn't that smart. He followed the map to its end point and discovered a secret society of global ex-pats that were living a seemingly ideal life, spending part of their time growing marijuana for money but most of their time drinking and screwing in the sand. Richard forced himself into their clique, and for awhile everything was perfect..

Until, of course, it all came apart for predictable reasons. All the sexual hedonism eventually soured into jealousy and infighting. The island's remote location and the islanders' need for secrecy made getting emergency medical care logistically impossible. And of course it was only a matter of time before the uneasy truce between Richard's friends and the rifle-toting gangsters who ran the industrial-sized grow operation on the island's other side was shattered...

On paper this should be a very exciting movie. After all, it has all the right ingredients for a good thriller - sex, drugs, rock 'n'roll. (Well, Moby, but close enough.) But the Beach doesn't really work, and it is mostly because Richard is too impulsive and self-entitled to ever make a single good decision. He shares the map with some surfers even though he knows he should keep it secret; he sleeps with people who are in relationships even though he knows that he lives in a tiny community where gossip will travel fast; he consistently underestimates how dangerous it would be to piss off the armed drug-dealers on the island's other side.

That short-sightedness makes Richard an insufferable character, but it also makes the movie predictable. As soon as someone tells Richard "if you do [x] then there will be [y] consequence" then everyone in the audience should know "oh, we'll be seeing [y] in about 20 minutes." I suppose that younger viewers might appreciate the Beach's more romantic qualities - it does a decent job of capturing a young person's wanderlust - but I'm too old to buy into Richard's bullshit. It should have taken Richard minutes, not months, to be able to guess than an island paradise that is crawling with angry militia men is not really "paradise."

But like I said, sometimes you have to make your own fun during a movie. About halfway through the Beach I was growing bored and restless... But then an opportunity for humor came up and I seized it with all my mental might.

You see,  there is a scene in the second act where a bored Richard starts to imagine himself as a character in a video game, getting points for navigating jungle obstacles and for attacking Thai gangsters. The scene itself isn't that good - the graphics don't look quite right - but it did start me down a joke wormhole, because it got me to thinking about Leonardo DiCaprio-themed video games. Specifically, it made me realize:

Now, I don't know if you ever played Altered Beast, the Sega Genesis' premier game about werewolves; if you are slightly older than me or slightly younger than me you probably didn't. Truth be told, I might not have ever played it myself - it was definitely around when I was a kid but I was never much of a gamer. But the obscurity of that reference doesn't matter, because as I was saying last week I love monster themed-jokes, and once I had made the Beach / Beast connection I was off to the werewolf-themed races.

Here are some other movie ideas I came up with to amuse myself while the Beach was on in the background:

-Altered Feast: A greedy entrepreneur tries to make a fancier version of Fancy Feast cat food using werewolf meat but his plans backfire after cats start turning into man-eating dogs

-Altered Crete: A werewolf tries to go to the island of Crete and fight a Minotaur, but his plans change after some Sirens cause his ship to wreck

-All-Starred Beach: A movie where the guy from Smashmouth is surprised to discover that his life is unchanged after he survives a werewolf attack; he remains exactly as unhandsome and Hawaiian-shirted as ever

-Alanis Beast: A werewolf loses its ability to tell what is / is not ironic, ends up getting eaten by a vampire that has taken the form of a wolf, which is... fitting? Maybe?

-Benedict Arnold Beast: A werewolf messes up a batch of eggs benedict so badly that he is permanently exiled from France for "being a traitor to food"

So would I recommend the Beach? Well, no; its depiction tanned and toned twenty somethings doing drugs in the tropics was exhausting when it should have been exciting. But I can't completely write it off, either, because anything that leads me to laughing this much is a good thing. Basically, this movie is flawed but not irredeemably so. In fact, I hope that if there is ever a Beach reboot the producers come to me for advice on how to fix the original's problems, because I definitely have some alterations in mind that could really spiff up the script... like, say, adding werewolves... or Minotaurs... or Alanis Morissettes...

Winner: Draw

The Beach on IMDb