Mostly rambles, few brambles
“Good Burger”: Harbinger of the Commodification Age
Follow the recipe, collect the checks, and churn out the marketable drivel. Modern-day directors punch the clock. Time is money; art stays absent from the equation. A craft with a calling and passion has mutated into a logarithm. In this cinematic wasteland, though, a beacon burns—a bold paragon of hope named Brian Robbins.
A true maverick, Robbins holds an unapologetic mirror up to civilization and begs us to heed reality. From unearthing the contemporary struggle of forgotten youth and unrealistic expectations in his gritty 1999 exposé on West Texas football culture, Varsity Blues, to 2007’s brilliantly repulsive avant-garde piece, Norbit, Robbins habitually leaves audiences reassessing their lives and choices.
The oft-overlooked Good Burger is no exception. Robbins’ un-sophomoric sophomore picture personifies the unending struggle between character-rich individuality and faceless corporate expansion. The audience and industry each coerced into examining what road we’re on.
A simple man tries to escape debt’s slippery slope while a soon-to-be-sprawling conglomerate, Mondo Burger, jeopardizes his livelihood. Caught between noble individualism and succumbing to rigid commoditization, there’s no question this fable rings close to home. Good Burger lends audiences that horrific glance into that not-too-distant future where workplaces are sterile machines filled with jumpsuit-clad burger-peddling cogs obeying military-like orders.
This 95-minute funk-laden treasure seems as if it erupted out of Robbins. No longer could the visionary remain silent while countless American Goliaths gobbled up Davids by the dozen. Good Burger maintains that, without intervention, we’re headed towards a dystopia where countries and states are archaic and corporations reign supreme.
Robbins christens small business as the final bastion of individuality within American consumerism. Value, he imparts, needs to be re-construed as originality, heart, bumbling idiots trying to repair a broken shake machine from inside said “Strawberry Jacuzzi.” Value can be bigger than just more chemically engineered meat per dollar. There’s a genuine goodness beyond the limited spectrum of cookie-cutter sprawl. That character and flavor, each and every small business’ personal Ed’s Sauce, is under constant threat of being forever squeezed out.
The tour-de-force crescendos into a beautiful cryptic climax. Mondo Burger tries to sabotage Good Burger by using their government connections to detain our heroes within a mental institution. From there it’s your typical farce involving a George Clinton dance number, a high-speed chase with a stolen ice cream truck, and comeuppance via exploding hamburgers.
Are massive corporate takedowns so demanding that one would need an equally zany, unlikely sequence to accomplish one, or is Good Burger relaying that it requires a radical event by dedicated individuals to pull of something so monumental?
Concession or call to action, we may never know. Robbins, though, has done his job; we are having the discussion, and that’s where all change has to start.
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