A teen comedy about Gonzo journalism that the late Hunter S. Thompson, the creator of that irreverent satirical brand of reporting, would likely not have endorsed, Beware The Gonzo is primarily anything but. In other words, your basic thinly veiled get-even gross-out dressed up in high school newspaper rebel with a clause clothing, and nowhere new to go.
Billed to preempt with its release date right now, Thompson’s novel to screen The Rum Diary due out around Halloween, Beware The Gonzo with Ezra Miller as the lead isn’t half bad, but is no Johnny Depp. Which is to say, that if this uneasy mix of raucous and bland coming of age jock vs. jerk humor bears any relation to Thompson’s delirious imagination, with a movie title meant to borrow his fame, it’s pretty much Gonzo lite.
Ezra Miller is Eddie ‘Gonzo’ Gilman, a sullen senior and aspiring future journalist enduring his final year at a swanky prep school. When Gavin (Jesse McCartney), the most popular guy in school, reigning jock and editor of the school newspaper senses a rival in Eddie and pushes him off the rag’s writing staff, the fanatically driven brainiac conspires with fellow campus outcasts to start an underground paper of his own.
And though Beware The Gonzo grabs all the right retro-revolutionary lingo that characterizes its subversive tone, the hermetic contemporary setting of smug, privileged teens stagnates as aired gripes that tend to be limited to bullying, bad sex and even worse cafeteria food. And ends up posturing a rebel sixties sociopolitical stance to which it is meant to pay tribute, but misses the boat with a ship that sailed off long ago. And why are nearly all the school pariahs physically grotesque or psychologically creepy, as if playing it both ways in feigning sympathy for those characters, while reinforcing the in crowd’s disdain for them.
Especially when it comes to the coeds consigned to merely wallpapering this thematically misdirected feminist sidebar yarn. As it weighs in for real with giddy super-sized flabby female rejects hungering for acceptance by offering themselves up for sex to any bottom feeder taker around. Along with a woefully misused Zoe Kravitz as your passive aggressive cookie cutter campus slut for whom racial insult is rendered invisible.
In what amounts to all around, as regressive, you’ve come a long way backwards, baby. And where issues related to date rape gets summarily shoved to the back burner, rather than worthy of consideration let alone afterthought as potential Gonzo front page news.
Too bad, because screenwriter turned first time director Bryan Goluboff substantially raised expectations, following his superb screen adaptation some years ago of poet and punk musician Jim Carroll’s The Basketball Diaries (1995) with Leonardo DiCaprio as Carroll. But perhaps that’s the core dilemma, of tailoring an alternative sensibility to Hollywood convention imperatives.