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John Dies at the End

This adaptation of the cult novel by David Wong is strange and funny and more than a little bizarre: equal parts drug movie and sci-fi adventure.

Imagine David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch targeted to young adults.

It's kind of perfect material for director Don Coscarelli, a filmmaker who broke out of the genre ghetto (Phantasm 1-4; Beastmaster) with the droll, offbeat comedy-thriller Bubba Ho-Tep.

Tonally, this movie is in the same turf. Dave Wong (Chase Williamson) meets with a reporter named Arnie (Paul Giamatti) ostensibly to blow the lid off a drug called Soy Sauce that allows its consumers alarming insight into -- everything. (Dave demonstrates by telling Arnie what he dreamed the previous night.)

Turns out Soy Sauce is strong stuff, kind of like a sentient hash oil. It also isn't something that anyone can take.

"We were chosen by the Soy Sauce," Dave says in one of the movie's multitude of quotable lines.

Once dosed, Dave and his friend John (Rob Mayes) are obliged to get to the bottom of things, a prospect that takes them through time, space, and into an alternative universe where everyone wears masks and only the men wear clothes.

JDATE is not a movie that ties up all its plot points into a neat little narrative bundle, but that's one of the things that makes it's such a enjoyably seditious entertainment.

Its freewheeling charm is matched by its two male leads. Williamson and Mayes somehow manage the neat trick of playing omniscient wiseasses without being obnoxious. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 4, 2013 C16

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