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Junkfood Cinema: The Questionable ‘Good Burger’ Restaurant Review

By  · Published on December 2nd, 2012

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Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema. What we do here, besides significantly skew the national cholesterol averages, is to blur the line between the worlds of bad movies and worse food. Like junk food, we recognize the lack of substantial value in these movies as far as film school dieticians are concerned, but we will still happily and lovingly scarf down box after box of sweet, frosted VHS tape… (Our metaphors have mixed like as similes allusion parable – sorry, third sugar stroke today). Where this approach becomes fuzzy, like gravy-left-on-the-counter-for-eight-days fuzzy, is when a bad restaurant is at the center of a bad movie. As devoid of taste as either the restaurant or movie (or both) may be, we can’t help but find ourselves wishing we could slip the surly bonds of reality and cross through the screen. We also wish the bonds of Fazoli’s hours of operation weren’t so surly, to say nothing of its night security guard.

Such is the case with Nickelodeon’s 1997 fatsterpiece Good Burger. It began life as a sketch on the comedy/variety show All That, and then someone decided this marvel of noncomedy was worthy of a filmic adaptation. I guess that sketch where Amanda Bynes screams at people didn’t quite have the legs as did a sketch that boldly draws attention to the … ineptitude of fast food employees. Inspired by a recent article in the New York Times, in which restaurant reviewer Pete Wells eviscerates Guy Fieri’s Times Square cafe by simply posing him questions. These questions cut to the quick of everything that Wells sees as inferior about the eatery while also cutting down someone whose clout seemed to have him operating on the misconception that he could half-ass a Times Square restaurant. Given the enormity of the acclaim and esteem lavished upon Good Burger for far too long, we thought it was time to similarly take them down a peg … de-peg them … generally spoil their peg arrangement.

Nick O’Lodeon,

Have you watched your movie Good Burger? Have you suffered through all 103 minutes?

Did you really feel an All That sketch was worth adapting? Wasn’t All That just a poor, family-friendly affectation of Saturday Night Live? Is that why Good Burger is merely an amalgam of every existing SNL movie up to that point? Isn’t Ed’s surfer lingo just a cheap imitation of Wayne and Garth? Don’t the musical numbers, specialized car, and “save the rec center” storyline smack a little too hard of Blues Brothers? Does Ed seem like an alien from planet Bonehead?

Was there ever a point that you thought maybe Kel Mitchell was not a suitable leading man? That perhaps the funniest thing about his television career was his troubling obsession with orange soda on Kenan and Kel? Did you perhaps mistakenly presume these two had the comedic timing of Abbott and Costello? Are you operating under the misconception that when people say Abbott and Costello they are referring to Elvis Costello and an actual monastery abbot?

Have you heard Ed’s rancid puns? Really sat down and given pause to hear them out loud? Does he not remind you of a severely inebriated kindergartener? Don’t his jokes make him less suitable as a film protagonist and more appropriate for the job of managing this column? It’s clear that Kel Mitchell had flashes of comedic timing, so why did you not write him a single line of dialogue worth the effort of utterance? What was the logic behind making him so, SO stupid? Dude? DUDE?!

Why did you find it necessary to subject poor Abe Vigoda to an appearance in Good Burger? And where did you acquire the voodoo proficiency required to raise him from the dead? What do you mean he’s still alive?

Where does Josh Server (the actor playing the drive-thru attendant, Fizz) get his smack?

Mr. O’Lodeon, is it etched somewhere into the contract of every one of your performers that they must be covered in some sort of viscous substance at some point in each production? Does it trouble you that the trademark of your network, sliming people, is tantamount to a thriving sex fetish scene? Is that why there is porn music confoundedly placed throughout the movie? “Feel my desire?” Really?

Was there no way to construct a villain who doesn’t look like he was wrapped in Y2K and dipped in Powerman 5000?

Why is Shaq in this movie? No, seriously, why? Had you not seen Kazaam the year before? Did he not prove he was well capable of ruining his own movies without having to then cameo in already thoroughly ruined movies as well? Did you perhaps take too literally the edict to enlist the services of the biggest celebrity in town? Were you not at all worried that the appearance of L.A. Lakers Shaq would perhaps date the movie? I mean, wouldn’t the only thing more dated than Shaq in L.A. be the onscreen presence of Sinbad or, worse, Carmen Elektra?

Why is Mondo Burger so determined to drive Good Burger out of business? Shouldn’t they be focusing on, I don’t know, actual fast food chains with more than just the one failing store? What exactly is their business model? Cheat to win a pointless competition that won’t ensure them any kind of future success? Is Mondo Burger a front for the 1992 Filipino Little League World Series team? Did you not realize when you were making the movie that plenty of chains do actually have burgers that size? Should we really be concerned that Mondo’s illegal additive makes the burgers larger or that it apparently turns meat in the grinder into obvious chunks of foam?

Why the dance number in the asylum? Also, how easy is it really to have someone committed? Does simply “having friends at the hospital” mean you can institutionalize anyone you want? Wouldn’t there be mondo amounts of paperwork involved? All that aside, again, why this dance number? Was it part of your ongoing plan to make this movie totally bereft of a target audience? If there is one thing kids love more than all the blaxploitation jokes surrounding “comedian” Sinbad, it’s George Clinton, right? Was that George Clinton, or was it the Baron Samedi-like priest you used to call Vigoda back to life?

So when is Kel Mitchell’s next movie due out? Or how about an arthouse version of the All That sketch where Kenan Thompson says weird things in French? Non? Non. Could it be any worse that Stuart Saves His Family?

Can we at least agree that this movie is better than director Brian Robbins’ later projects: Norbit, Meet Dave, and A Thousand Words? Would Norbit have been better if all the characters Eddie Murphy played had worked at Good Burger? Is it not entirely obvious that the answer is yes?

Junkfood Pairing: Armadillo’s Burgers

Not far from JFC headquarters, or at least not far enough away to stop us from frequenting, a burger joint in San Antonio called Armadillo’s routinely serves offerings from their “giants” menu. These burgers make Mondo look more like Minimo. They don’t need any MacGuffin food steroid, because they use the most advanced and beautiful science on the planet to make such gargantuan treats: Texas cows.

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.