America, in the near future.
Due to a rise in crime coupled with an economic collapse, a new moralistic government has taken power. All drugs and alcohol have been banned …. except for one day of the year. On that day, anyone who is 18 years old or older will be able to drink, smoke, inject, and snort anything that they want. This is the annual …. BINGE!
Okay, so does this sound familiar to anyone?
The Binge is a mix of The Purge and Superbad. Three dorky high school students (played by Skyler Gisondo, Eduardo Franco, and Dexter Darden) want to take part in their first binge but it’s not going to easy, largely because they’re not actually cool enough to have been invited to any of the big Binge parties. Unless they can find a way to sneak into the legendary Library Party, they’re going to miss out on all the fun and they’re not going to get laid.
Vince Vaughn, meanwhile, plays the high school principal who, at the start of the film, exhorts his students not to binge so hard that they end up getting horribly disfigured or bring any sort of shame on the reputation of their school. However, when he finds out that his own daughter has snuck out of the house and is taking part in the Binge, he hits the streets and ends up binging himself.
And listen, The Binge gets off to a good start. It opens with a Morgan Freeman sound alike narrating a short film about how much better life in America is thanks to the Binge. Yes, it’s totally ripped off from The Purge but let us give the film some credit for at least admitting that it’s not exactly an original idea. The short film is followed by a scene of Vaughn standing in a shabby high school auditorium, explaining to his students why binging is not a good idea and he goes through all of the classic horror stories that teenagers have been told through the years to keep them from indulging. Vaughn comes across like some sort of demented gym teacher in this scene and it’s genuinely funny.
Meanwhile, throughout the high school, the students share stories about what they’ve heard life was like before the Binge. Someone talks about how people used to do keg stands just for someone else to ask, “What’s a keg?” Another student talks about how her mother claims that there used to be a show called Sex and the City, in which the characters would have sex and drink pink alcohol.
Those early scenes are funny but the rest of the film doesn’t live up to them. Once the Binge begins, the film becomes just another raunchy high school party film and, to be honest, it’s a bit dull. It’s also hard not to notice that, for a bunch of people who have apparently never drank or done drugs before, some of the characters handle getting drunk and stoned surprisingly well. You would also think that, if you could only drink or do drugs one time a year, some people would at least try to be a little bit creative in how they did it. Instead, it appears that everyone learned how to binge by watching old episodes of Saved By The Bell, California Dreams, and 90210. With the exception of one drug-induced musical number that occurs about halfway into the film and a pretty amusing contest to see who can snort the most coke while doing the best Pacino imitation, everyone’s just so boring.
This is one of those comedies where people randomly screaming is often used as a substitute for any sort of real wit or clever dialogue. The main characters are so poorly defined that you really never care whether or not they’re going to get laid, get stoned, go to prom, or get into college. I appreciated any movie that satirizes prohibition but The Binge, much like the students that Vince Vaughn warned about at the start of the film, fails to live up to its potential.