The 90-Minute Rule and Why the Dead Don’t Die is Dreadful
There are plenty of things wrong with Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die. Perhaps the biggest sin is that it’s plodding pacing works as one long setup to a punchline-less joke. However, of note, one additional miscue is Jarmusch’s outright refusal to follow the unwritten law of the 90-minute comedy.
The 90-minute Rule
Why 90 minutes?
One hour-and-a-half is set in hypothetical stone for a reason. Laughter, when properly induced, is a powerful emotional discharge. It’s draining, and even the funniest of films become wearisome the further they float past the 90-minute mark.
At the 95-minute mark, your jaws begin to ache, your knees are numb from the slapping and your likelihood of letting slip a public fart increase by 97%, or so I’ve read.
And that’s just if it’s a good comedy. You know, the kind that makes you laugh not of pity or awkward self-awareness, but from good old fashioned funny shit.
Standup comedy also follows the 90-minute rule. In a traditional comedy club setting, you have three comics: The emcee/opener, the middle/featured act and the Headliner. The first comic has 15 minutes, the middle 20-to-30 minutes and the headliner 45 minutes. If a Headliner is incredibly strong, or a big “name,” the middle act usually does 20 minutes, to accommodate for the Headliner to go over his time if he is crushing it.
Exceptions arise, of course. Spaceballs is one of my favorite comedies of all-time, and it exceeds that 90-minute mark by six minutes. Why it works and TDDD doesn’t is simple: Spaceballs is funny.
The Dead Don’t Die
The Dead Don’t Die clocks in at an excruciatingly long 105 minutes. I went to see it on a Friday night, and after 30 meandering, pointless, laugh-free minutes, it felt as though I’d leave the theater bathed in the sunrise of a Monday morning.
If you’re asking yourself how a movie that stars Bill Murray, Chloe Sevigney, Adam Driver and Tilda Swinton could suck so bad, you are not alone. I mean Bill effing Murray for eff’s sake, and you can’t even blame one of Wes Anderson’s excruciating “comedic” formulas for ruining the role of one of cinema’s funniest actors of all-time.
There are so many things wrong with The Dead Don’t Die, that I just want to say:
“Well, it sucks. The End.”
See, any amount of time I spend pondering this steaming pile of unfunny nonsense makes me question my sanity. Not only for watching it but continuing to think about. My only answer is that it is just that bad.
How bad is it?
Man, what do you say about a movie too shitty for a Raspberry Award?
Look there’s slow, and then there’s Jarmusch Slow. This film is paced like it was remixed by DJ Screw who is thinking the entire time that this: “Shit is too damn slow, dawg.”
Okay, it’s: Nacho Libre bad. Battlefield Earth bad. Ishtar on bad acid...or, I suppose really good acid.
Look there’s just no way that giving birth is more painful than watching this. Sorry ladies.
It was so awful, I had no taste for the popcorn dutifully nestled in the folds of my shirt.
Quick joke: How do you spell “Jarmusch?” SLOWWWWWWWWLY.
A quick rundown of the “action”
I guess you can call this a plot. It’s more like the slowest series of unfunny clichés you’ve ever seen, dropped right smack dab in the middle of a generic zombie flick.
● Tom Waits narrates and is particularly “meh”.
● Adam Driver and Bill Murray plunge the pregnant pause into unforgivable depths where not even Jim Rome dare dive.
● Chloe Sevigney limps languidly through an occasional conversation or two.
● A swashbuckling Tilda Swinton appears with katana, pointy ears, and long white air. It oddly suits her.
● With shotgun cradled in her arms, Sevigney exits Murray’s vehicle and into certain death. Yep, we only wish we were all so lucky.
● Mercifully, people start dying; not as frequently as the jokes flop, but some action is really effing needed.
● Tilda Swinton, looking like Legolas after a big breakfast of benzos, is beamed up into a spacecraft. Totally serious.
● Damn it, like the world’s worst zombie, this effing thing continues wobbling about.
● Tom Waits mush mouths his way through a half-assed monologue lazily written about materialism.
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Have you seen The Dead Don’t Die? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
Tim Howell is a writer and contributor for Cinema Soapbox